Tag Archives: furry philosophy

The Meaning of Furry

Up until this point, there has been a lot of discussion around furry; on what it means to be a furry, how the identity interacts with the way we see the world, etc… However, it is often beneficial to reflect upon the things we have said, and the way in which we use words. I believe, and will attempt to show in this essay, that we hold an incomplete grasp of words within the context of furry.

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That Whole “Furry” Thing

At furry conventions, I tend to physically stand out from the crowd. I’m older than most furs, and don’t tend to wear “convention gear” like ears and a tail. Indeed, due to sheer absent-mindedness I often even forget to wear my badge. So it’s natural, I suppose, that “outsiders” often approach me and ask “Sir, what is this whole “furry” thing about, anyway? Why is everyone here dressed so strangely?”

So, in turn it’s also natural that I’ve given considerable thought to the matter. “We’re people who like anthropomorphic art and literature and such,” is my usual quick-and-dirty answer. “Think Nick Wilde, or Bugs Bunny.” And that’s usually good enough; people approaching a stranger in public generally aren’t seeking anything more. Yet this is also the simplest and most facile of all responses, one that opens more doors than it closes. For the people surrounding us when this conversation takes place have often traveled hundreds or even thousands of miles to be there, crossed entire continents and oceans on journeys that they’ve often saved for years to undertake. With all due to respect to Nick and Bugs, there’s clearly something much deeper at work.

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What is it like to be a furry?

In 1974, the philosopher Thomas Nagel first asked “What is it like to be a bat?”[1] Whilst originally an essay concerning the interaction between mind and body (and something highly worth reading for anybody with even a passing interest in the philosophy of mind), Nagel may have unintentionally left something important for the furry community to consider.

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Furries, Epicurus, and the Hedonistic Paradox

Furries want to be happy.

“Surely that’s not unique to furries, all humans want to be happy”, you might reply. To an extent I would agree, happiness is largely what people appear to be aiming for in life. Yet few groups of people seem to embrace it more than furries. At almost any convention you will find hundreds of permanently smiling fursuits; costumes specifically designed to make the wearer feel good, and deliver a sense of joy to those around them. Online, thousands of dollars pass from commissioners to artists, in exchange for illustrations of the buyer’s fursona. Sex is an undeniably large part of the fandom, and that is partly, in my mind, because of it’s association with pleasure. On the surface there does not seem to be anything intrinsically wrong with these things; fursuits, pictures, sex, and porn, all provide a great sense of joy, ideally without harming anyone. It would seem that one of the key tenets to furry is hedonism; pleasure equals good.

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Furries, Therians, and the Cyborg Manifesto

This article is about the blurring of lines between human and non-human animals. It looks at how the furry identity muddies the idea of what it means to be a person by challenging the human/animal duality, and draws parallels with similar false dualities such as male/female, straight/gay, and animal/machine. This is all tied into science fiction, futurism, and feminism.

I realise this is an odd opening to my article. However I think this opening is necessary for those of you who saw the word “cyborg”, and guessed that I’d be writing about Randomwolf as a robot who learns that the most powerful force on earth is love. If you were hoping to read about the activation of Randomwolf’s emotion chip, you may stop reading now. This article is about how furry links with cyborg philosophy. Robot Randomwolf never learns anything about these things we humans call “feelings”.

The Cyborg Manifesto, an essay written by Donna Haraway first published in 1985 (full text here*), is a thoroughly readable and prescient exercise in futurism and feminist theory. Haraway posits that technology will strongly influence the way we perceive identity, and that this will have a knock-on effect to the world in general. And while Haraway doesn’t predict the rise of the furry community, furries fit neatly into her predictions.

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Of Animals and Men

Doug Fontaine is a writer, ployglot, and generally talkative otter. This is his second article for [adjective][species]. Read more at his SoFurry account.

If you’re looking for some furry smut story, then you’re definitely barking up the wrong tree here. But don’t be a scaredy-cat; muster up your courage and be as brave as a lion. Reading something informative can be as stimulating as a story with furs breeding like rabbits. Whether you’re as sly as a fox or as strong as an ox, you might have noticed a prevailing presence of animal related idioms in the English language. Okay, no more monkey business; let’s explore animals in our cultures throughout history.

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Identity and Biology: The Real and the Real

Fursuiting is magical.

The world shifts slightly when you plunge into a foamy fursuit head, and it takes your eyes a moment to adjust to the reduced light and the restricted vision. This is the moment you cross the threshold and become “in suit”. The effects are immediate.

Many fursuiters experience a feeling of relaxation when they enter suit. This feeling is a bit counter-intuitive to non-furries, there is sometimes a quick frown of suspicion when a suiter describes how suiting can be simultaneously physically taxing and mentally relieving. This suspicion is on par with that we feel when someone asserts that they “enjoy” some minor but fundamentally disagreeable task, like the person who has to wake up at 5:30am for work might say that they enjoy the crisp dawn air, and that they are more of a morning person anyway. It’s plausible but not very compelling.

The feeling of relaxation comes from the removal of social pressures. People start reacting to the suit and so the wearer can drop all the usual social defences: they can smile and frown and sweat and wave without worrying about the subtle ways that those acts might be interpreted. The suiter knows that people are reacting to the suit’s social cues, not those of the human being pulling the strings underneath.

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Furries and Animal Welfare

An apparent contradiction for your consideration:

  1. Furries care about animal welfare. Collectively we dedicate significant time, mental energy, and charitable donations to animal welfare causes (especially at conventions where total donations several hundreds of thousands of dollars per year). 83% of furries say they support animal rights (ref).
  2. Only around 4% of furries are vegetarian (ref 2009 Furry Survey), about the same as the general population.

A group with a larger-than-normal proportion of animal welfare advocates, like furry, might be expected to have a larger-than-normal proportion of ethical vegetarians. This is not to say that all advocates of animal welfare can be expected to be vegetarian on grounds of animal welfare, simply that such a choice is more likely. So why are there so few?

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What We Talk About When We Talk About Furry

Guest post by Rick Griffin.  Rick is the creator of Housepets and can be found on FA, DA, and Weasyl, as well as on Patreon. Rick will be Guest of Honor at Confuzzled this May.

I often find, when I’m trying to discuss furry with someone, that we tend to get hung up on personal definitions. Now, while this is considered a boon for the fandom ­– furry can be ANYTHING you want, man! Just like, open your mind, and let the furry flow through you! – this is often a problem when we’re determining whether or not we really do have something in common beyond just the label.

The thing is, most of the time when I talk about furry, I mean it is the most original sense of the word: I like cartoon animals (for varying degrees of the word “cartoon” and “animals”). This sometimes means it’s very hard to discuss cartoon animals in a general fandom sense without someone stepping in and saying “Furry isn’t just about cartoon animals!”

Yes, I know that. I got that. I’m not attempting to marginalize anyone, but you have to admit that the proportion of cartoon animal fans tend to vastly outweigh the others. And when I speak, sometimes I’m just attempting to speak from a very specific platform, for which we all have a word: “Furry”

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We, Monsters

Guest post by Thesis White. Thesis is a writer-artist, cognitive science student, and peachy dalmatian who loves creating their own discourse. (Thesis is on Twitter and FX.) This is their second article for [adjective][species].

Grendel
“That is their [animals’] happiness: they see all life without observing it. They’re buried in it like crabs in mud. Except men, of course.” ― John Gardner, Grendel

We each cite different reasons for identifying as furs, which range from childhood exposure to cartoons to simple sex appeal. However, in a psychological, cultural sense, that doesn’t tell us much about the underlying function our fursonas serve in our lives. Why do we like putting ourselves in furry bodies and characters?

In order to answer this question, I propose we examine the phenomenon culturally, similarly to the way we would think about monsters. These creatures, having existed in culture for thousands of years, have riddled our literature and oral tales; the oldest surviving text in the English language is Beowulf which tells of the monster Grendel, depicted right. Egyptian gods and Greek monsters go even further back.

At the most basic level, furs and monsters are visually similar. Both contain distortions of human and animal bodies, and both are imaginary. Both were culturally crafted and designed, and may have features that appear frightening. However the most important similarities are what they say about the culture that created them.

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