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Animal consciousness

Philosophical Background and Scientific Approaches: – René Descartes argued only humans are conscious. – The mind-body problem examines the relationship between mind and matter. – […]

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Philosophical Background and Scientific Approaches:
– René Descartes argued only humans are conscious.
– The mind-body problem examines the relationship between mind and matter.
– Dualism maintains a rigid distinction between mind and matter.
– Monism posits mind and matter as aspects of one stuff.
– French Structuralism rejects the mind-body dichotomy.
– Descartes proposed dualism, separating the mind as a philosophical matter from science.
– Scholars have shifted towards a science of consciousness in recent decades.
– Neuroscientists like Antonio Damasio and Gerald Edelman focus on neural correlates of consciousness.
– Edelman’s theory introduces primary and secondary consciousness.
– Eugene Linden suggests animal behavior shows consciousness beyond human assumptions.

Animal Ethics and Consciousness:
– Bernard Rollin of Colorado State University.
– Animal consciousness raises ethical questions.
– Ethical implications of animal consciousness research.
– Consideration of animal welfare in relation to consciousness.
– Ethical treatment of animals based on consciousness.

Scientific Research on Animal Consciousness:
– Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness.
– Observations of near human-like levels of consciousness in grey parrots.
– Active research on animal consciousness for over a century.
– Neuroscientists assert non-human animals possess neurological substrates for consciousness.
– Psychologists and ethologists describe behaviors indicating animal consciousness.

Evolutionary Perspectives and Neuroscience:
– Evolutionary arguments for mind-brain interaction.
– Survival value of consciousness in biological evolution.
– Consciousness influenced by neural processes.
– Evolutionary theories of consciousness.
– Neuroscience explores correlations between brain activity and conscious experiences.

Animal Behavior and Consciousness Studies:
– Some documented animal behavior suggests emotional depth and consciousness.
– Examples of animal intelligence challenge traditional boundaries of consciousness.
– Daniel Dennett argues that consciousness is culturally instilled and not hard-wired.
– Consciousness is not a binary phenomenon and varies between species.
– Speculations about animal consciousness are debated due to vast differences between species.

Additional Concepts:

– Mirror Test and Language:
– Animals like elephants, apes, dolphins, whales, magpies, and pigeons recognize themselves in mirrors.
– Passive speech research with animals like macaws can indicate consciousness.
– Zipf’s law can be used to study animal communication for intelligent language.

– Pain or Suffering:
– Arguments revolve around animals’ ability to feel pain or suffering.
– Suffering implies consciousness, similar to humans.
– Adverse reactions to negative stimuli and transmarginal inhibition indicate pain.

– Awareness, Connectivity in Neocortex, and Attention:
– Awareness, self-awareness, sentience, sapience, and qualia.
– Neocortex and its role in consciousness.
– Attention as a cognitive process involving processing resources.

Animal consciousness (Wikipedia)

Animal consciousness, or animal awareness, is the quality or state of self-awareness within an animal, or of being aware of an external object or something within itself. In humans, consciousness has been defined as: sentience, awareness, subjectivity, qualia, the ability to experience or to feel, wakefulness, having a sense of selfhood, and the executive control system of the mind. Despite the difficulty in definition, many philosophers believe there is a broadly shared underlying intuition about what consciousness is.

A grey parrot peers into the camera
According to the Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness, "near human-like levels of consciousness" have been observed in the grey parrot.

The topic of animal consciousness is beset with a number of difficulties. It poses the problem of other minds in an especially severe form because animals, lacking the ability to use human language, cannot tell us about their experiences. Also, it is difficult to reason objectively about the question, because a denial that an animal is conscious is often taken to imply that they do not feel, their life has no value, and that harming them is not morally wrong. The 17th-century French philosopher René Descartes, for example, has sometimes been criticised for providing a rationale for the mistreatment of animals because he argued that only humans are conscious.

Philosophers who consider subjective experience the essence of consciousness also generally believe, as a correlate, that the existence and nature of animal consciousness can never rigorously be known. The American philosopher Thomas Nagel spelled out this point of view in an influential essay titled What Is it Like to Be a Bat?. He said that an organism is conscious "if and only if there is something that it is like to be that organism—something it is like for the organism"; and he argued that no matter how much we know about an animal's brain and behavior, we can never really put ourselves into the mind of the animal and experience their world in the way they do themself. Other thinkers, such as the cognitive scientist Douglas Hofstadter, dismiss this argument as incoherent. Several psychologists and ethologists have argued for the existence of animal consciousness by describing a range of behaviors that appear to show animals holding beliefs about things they cannot directly perceive—Walter Veit's 2023 book A Philosophy for the Science of Animal Consciousness reviews a substantial portion of the evidence.

Animal consciousness has been actively researched for over one hundred years. In 1927, the American functional psychologist Harvey Carr argued that any valid measure or understanding of awareness in animals depends on "an accurate and complete knowledge of its essential conditions in man". A more recent review concluded in 1985 that "the best approach is to use experiment (especially psychophysics) and observation to trace the dawning and ontogeny of self-consciousness, perception, communication, intention, beliefs, and reflection in normal human fetuses, infants, and children". In 2012, a group of neuroscientists signed the Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness, which "unequivocally" asserted that "humans are not unique in possessing the neurological substrates that generate consciousness. Non-human animals, including all mammals and birds, and many other creatures, including octopuses, also possess these neural substrates."

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