Making plans

An old Calvin and Hobbes cartoon in my comics feed on the 30th:

It’s all about achieving goals (in this case, to get to the other side of the lake) and  making plans to achieve those goals, involving subsidiary goals (in this case, to drain the lake) and plans to achieve those subsidiary goals (in this case, by bailing out the lake with a bucket).

Human beings can be remarkably clever at devising auxiliary goals to reach larger ends, sometimes in several layers; Calvin’s problems are not in the planning facility, but in the utter futility of the auxiliary plan he’s devised.

Some other animals show some ingenuity in subsidiary planning, at least in certain contexts and for certain kinds of goals; great apes are known for their cleverness. But some animals in some situations are just not prepared to do auxiliary planning, as anyone who’s dealt with dogs, even very smart ones, can attest.

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