This is a general question that proves you have no way of knowing anything. How can you prove, that if you see me (assume I look like you exactly, because you don't have a picture of me), I am not a dog in disguise? I have tried these reasonings:

  1. You don't look like a dog.

My reply: I had so much surgery and grafting I don't look like a dog anymore.

  1. You don't think like a dog.

My reply: I had a brain transplant.

  1. You don't eat dog food.

My reply: I have a different stomach and taste buds transferred from a human.

  1. If you have none of the characteristics of a dog, what anchors you and keeps you from simply being a human?

My reply: I was born a dog and have one cell of dog left in me.

Do you have any way to prove I'm not a dog? I don't think you can.

  • 1
    What's a dog, precisely? You need precise definitions and axioms to make a proof. Otherwise, you're pointlessly talking about nonsense.
    – Olivier
    Jun 18, 2017 at 2:53
  • 1
    This sounds like the Ship of Theseus thought experiment. Although you're asking a different question, it seems like you first need to answer the question of the Ship of Theseus in order to define what a "dog" is. Jun 18, 2017 at 3:20
  • 2
    Because dogs do not ask questions on web sites dedicated to philosophy. Jun 18, 2017 at 9:19
  • @Bridgeburners in my opinion, the Ship of Theseus changes everytime you make a change to it, meaning that it stays the Ship of Theseus because right before you change the last bit of the ship, THAT is what the Ship of Theseus looks like. Then, when you change the last bit, it is the Ship of Theseus because it is the Ship of Theseus with one board changed, which makes it still the Ship of Theseus.
    – TigerGold
    Jun 18, 2017 at 13:48
  • @TigerGold It may be that that interpretation of the Ship of Theseus is why you have this question. As a general rule, the reason the Ship of Theseus is a story that has survived the ages is because every interpretation of it has some problem with it. It looks like you may have found yours, in the form of proving you are not a dog.
    – Cort Ammon
    Jun 19, 2017 at 4:42

6 Answers 6


Can you lick your private parts?


Then, you are a sorry excuse for a dog.

  • So cats are dogs? Because they can.
    – TigerGold
    Jun 18, 2017 at 13:54
  • 1
    Dog -> lick privates == !dog -> !(lick privates) != lick privates -> dog
    – Canyon
    Jun 18, 2017 at 21:54
  • To put Canyon's expressions in words, according to the typical rules of logic (i.e. the ones that are used in this society unless one specifies otherwise) the statement "dogs lick their privates" implies "those who do not lick their privates are not dogs." However, it does not imply that "all who lick their privates are dogs." Cats would be an example of why that second implication is false.
    – Cort Ammon
    Jun 19, 2017 at 4:46
  • 1
    @Canyon I think you meant !(lick privates) -> !dog Jun 19, 2017 at 16:26
  • Alas, you are right
    – Canyon
    Jun 19, 2017 at 16:44

If you can think of the question, How can you prove I'm not a dog?, you are certainly not a dog.

So you can prove you are not a dog by simply being able to ask yourself whether this ontological position of "dogness" is in your particular case attainable or not.

Dogs can't formulate self-referential questions, for all their otherwise provable and proved intelligence.

  • I simply have a different brain because I had a brain transplant, and endocrine system transplant, making me think like a dog.
    – TigerGold
    Jun 18, 2017 at 13:34
  • Again, I had a nervous system transplant.
    – TigerGold
    Jun 18, 2017 at 13:55

Leaving the ship of Theseus aside, and taking a modern, less 'essentialist' view of definition, the real problem is why we should care whether you are a dog? In what context do you want it to be relevant that you are a dog?

If there is no political or ethical way in which you intend to have us treat you like a dog, you are free to be a dog, or an orange, and participate in society without reference to the identity.

Socially, we don't care if someone's 'dog' is actually a 'coy-wolf', if it serves the same social function. Biologically, we know that it is dog DNA that first allowed coyotes and wolves to interbreed to begin with, so we can actually call the animal a dog if we want to, and we can also call it a coyote or a wolf. How we treat it depends a whole lot on that choice. But the name does not change the animal itself.

There is no essence to what a dog is. There are only cultural and biological conventions around dogliness that help us get along in the world.

But both of these serve real purposes. If there is some aspect of dog-status that you wish to retain beyond the name, we don't want encourage you to be the Rachel Dolezahl of the canine world, participating in a marginal way that troubles dogs or those aligned with dogs. And we don't want to just assign you a biological label that might confuse your vet.


The systems theory has the answer.

Systems are (1) sets of related (2) parts, but not only that: we (3) interact with them.

Let's start with (2): there is no possible physical proof that you are or not a dog: in the realm of essential parts, everything is just atoms. You and a box of chocolates are the same: energy.

Now, (1): when parts (e.g. atoms) form relations (e.g. bonding), systems are formed (e.g. molecules). Small systems form bigger systems (e.g. particles, cells, membranes, teeth... etc.). But they are just that: living or non-living systems. But at that level, there are no objective differences. At this level, boxes of chocolate are different of living entities. But there are no interactional differences between living beings.

Essential differences of systems start on the subject (3): us, when interacting with systems. A dog is a subjective idea, obtained by means of interaction: at some point in my life, I interacted with a dog, so I knew dogs. A dog is an experience of an interaction (as every idea on my mind).

Therefore, the fact that you are or not a dog is absolutely a subjective understanding. So, for me, you are not a dog because you formulated a question, and on my experience interacting with dogs, dogs cannot formulate questions. If you would have sent a furball... that would have complicated my personal proof: my interaction with real furballs is zero, essentially, heard some jokes on tv.

Now, it is impossible to prove that you are not a dog, because it is a subjective understanding. But that's how systems work in our mind. We share subjective experiences.

You cannot prove that the green color you see it is the same I see. But we name each subjective perception "green" and that's enough to survive. You and me call those things "dogs", play with them, but we're not sure we have the same perception. As soon as we interact with some physical system, we know if it is a dog or not.

In simpler words: trust me, you are not a dog.


Given your reply to #4, I'd label you as a person regardless of your personal feelings on the matter. You can call yourself a dog, a duck, or the Queen of England if you like, but being 99.99999999997% human means the 'human' label is most appropriate in my assessment.

I wouldn't mind also supporting your claim to the dog label. You obviously feel it applies to you, and having been born a dog does support it.

  • I agree with you. If you look like a human, think like a human, have the cell architecture of a human, eat like a human...etc. YOU ARE A HUMAN!!!
    – Guill
    Jun 20, 2017 at 7:20

When you say:

You don't think like a dog. My reply: I had a brain transplant.

it looks to me that you are trying to object to arguments such as the ones given by User26328 and by RodolfoAP, namely that the fact that you ask questions makes you not a dog, since asking questions is not part of "dogness."

However, it is important to notice that brains do not think as people as a whole do. Because asking "why?," thinking about meaning and making judgments are not simply emotions that can be explained by neuroscience since those cannot be encoded in physical media. The fact that you are asking this question, therefore, means that you have more than just a brain: it means that you have a soul, which is one of the traits that defines us human.

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