The Novel “Fifteen Dogs” by André Alexis


Numerous studies have reached varying conclusions as to whether intelligence brings happiness. While intelligence makes a person enjoy numerous things like riches and success, it does not necessarily make humans happier. Indeed, it can be argued that animals with less intelligence live more fulfilling lives than humans. A good example would be looking at dogs and cats who have less intelligence and can’t communicate and discuss things like humans, yet they live a life full of comfort. This is the observation the author of the “fifteen dogs” makes and explains in the form of a story how giving dogs human intelligence made them live a life that was not full of happiness. The novel “Fifteen Dogs” is a good example of why human intellect does not always brings happiness.

Human Intelligence Brings Conflict

Humans have higher intelligence than animals, but that does not make them live peaceful and harmonious lives. Indeed, history shows that humans have had more brutal conflicts such as wars, because of their desire for revenge and ability to create weapons. The ability to communicate with one another and split into large groups connected by ideas makes the conflicts more brutal. This fact is observed in the novel under review because when the dogs gained intelligence, the number of conflicts increased. They split into two groups divided by ideas, a character common for humans who form contradicting communities. The group led by Atticus decided to attack the group led by Manjoun and kill them purely because of their ideas. This resulted in more pain for both the groups, and the dogs that survived the Manjouns pack started to plot revenge. Eventually, the conflict led to the death of most of the dogs, especially after Benjy poisoned them. The scenes in the book reflect what happens in human societies, as their intelligence makes them want to control and dominate. This desire for power and revenge results in great pain for humans, as symbolized in the “Fifteen dogs” through its characters.

Human Intelligence Causes Depression

The fact that humans possess more intelligence than dogs makes them over-rationalize little things, thus making them unhappy. Unlike humans, animals, who are generally less intelligent than people, do whatever they wish without much thinking and thus don’t feel much pain. This difference makes animals live a carefree life full of happiness. This argument can be proved in the novel when Rosie, the German shepherd, was gifted with intelligence. She was troubled to learn she left her waste products without a plan and was thus unhappy. This sort of depression is shown by Majnoun as well. He was very troubled when he talked with the human Nira because she told him painful and depressing things. During his recovery, Majnoun is constantly unhappy and confused about why the Atticus group betrayed him. Majnoun discovers that the greed for power was a major contributor to his pain. Majnoun is later taken to a treatment and test facility, where he is asked a series of painful and terrifying questions about his conditions. These events show that intelligence makes a person overthink, thus making their lives less fulfilling.

Human Intelligence Causes Murder

Death is always terrible and causes much grief to both the killer and the friends of the victim. Their vast intelligence allowed humans to kill each other on large scale. Animals, on the other hand, don’t kill each other often, and it is rare for an animal to kill another of the same species. However, if animals had the same level of intelligence as humans, they would kill each other more often and become less happy. Intelligence enables people to discover methods to perform murders on a large scale, which brings sorrow to many who are left behind. The theme of death and how it causes much sorrow is well discussed in the novel “Fifteen Dogs”. When Apollo and Hermes gift the dogs with intelligence, they are about to devise dangerous ways to deceive and kill each other. Benjy decides to poison the other dogs and murder them because they conspire to do the same to him. This action did not bring much happiness to him, but it caused more trouble for him when he confessed it to Majnoun.

Human Intelligence Brings Envy and Jealousy

Of all the species that exist, humans are particularly known for their envy and jealousy. In humans’ jealousy is caused by possessing enough intelligence to realize when the other person is doing better than you. This feeling causes hatred and can make people with no conflicting interests fight each other. Animals, on the other hand, lack the knowledge that brings envy and will live with each other harmoniously. This argument can be proved by the fact that after the dogs were given intelligence, they became more prone to feeling bad when they saw others prosper.

Suffering caused by jealousy is common among humans who are likely to bring much pain to each other just because of their envy. A good example is when Majnoun discovered that Niras’ husband liked Benjy. He decided to attack his packmate for this, but Nira saw him and chased both from her house. They ended up in the forest without a caretaker and suffered through the ordeal.

Counter Arguments

Possessing human intelligence could, on rare occasions, cause more happiness than pain. A good example is the ability of humans to possess the skill of composing art. Human intelligence generates happiness through drama, music, poetry, and other related plays. In the novel, this fact is shown by Prince, who of the fifteen was the only one to end up happy. He enjoyed his happiness by composing poetry for the rest of his life. Of all the gifts humans have, the author seems to suggest that the gift of poetry is the only one that can bring happiness as gods possess it. However, one advantage can not be enough to show that being more intelligent makes one happier.


Human intelligence will not make a person happier because, first, it will likely cause a conflict of ideas, as shown in the novel. Intelligence possessed by humans can cause depression as well, and Majnoun is a good example of it. In addition, human cleverness makes it easy for them to devise creative ways to commit murders, and they are often jealous of each other. The fact that humans can communicate using language allows them to transfer their sorrow to one another. However, intelligence can make some people happier in a few circumstances by allowing to them create art. However, this is not comparable to the scale of pain many people go through as a result of being smart.

Works cited

Alexis, André. Fifteen dogs. Coach House Books, 2015. ‌

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