A groundbreaking meditation on our human-animal relationships and the moral code that binds it.
Adam's Task, Vicki Hearne’s innovative masterpiece on animal training, brings our perennial discussion of the human-animal bond to a whole new metaphysical level. Based on studies of literary criticism, philosophy, and extensive hands-on experience in training, Hearne asserts, in boldly anthropomorphic terms, that animals (at least those that interact more with humans) are far more intelligent than we assume. In fact, they are capable of developing an understanding of "the good," a moral code that influences their motives and actions.
Drawing on an eclectic range of influences—Nietzsche, T. S. Eliot, Disney animal trainer William Koehler, and Genesis from the Bible, among others—Hearne writes in contemplative, exploratory, and brilliant prose as she interweaves personal anecdotes with philosophy. Hearne develops an entirely new system of animal training that contradicts modern animal behavioral research and that, as her examples show, is astonishingly effective.
Widely praised, highly influential, and now with a new foreword by New York Times bestselling author Karen Joy Fowler, Adam’s Task will make every trainer, animal psychologist, and animal-lover stop, think, and question.
First published by Knopf in 1986, Hearne's groundbreaking book was born of her need to be able to talk about her training relationships with dogs, horses and other animals. Hearne (1946-2001) found that there was no vocabulary, that captured the complex set of dependencies, trusts and moral quandaries that arose for when she trained dogs to track, or horses to jump. Through luminous anecdotes, she here develops rigorous and beautiful descriptions of the transactions between animals and people, what they entail and what the expectations-on both sides-are. Drawing on everything from Xenophon, Nietzsche and Wittgenstein to legendary Disney animal trainer William Koehler, Hearne anticipates the work of philosophers like Donna Haraway, but also provides of kind of training manual for the soul of anyone who has an animal or animals in his or her life. She would go on to write Bandit: Dossier of a Dangerous Dog and other books, but none distills Hearne's vision, and imparts a sense of her discovery, as this book does.