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Do Animals Think?

Do Animals Think? | Science, Technology, and Current Futurism | Scoop.it
By Clive Wynne | Psychology Today

 

Consciousness is not a tidy all-or-nothing entity; it varies with age, culture, experience and gender. And if animals have conscious experiences, these presumably vary widely as well. it might help to consider what an animal might be conscious of. It seems more likely than not that some animals are aware of objects and events that are critically important in their lives, such as what food is tasty, which animals are dangerous predators, and whether particular companions are friendly or aggressive.

 

The fact is that we lack adequate methods to identify conclusively what behavior is "conscious." But scientific study of consciousness is undergoing a renaissance as reflected in recent books, conferences and journals. And these investigations have begun to include nonhuman consciousness. In particular, Alan Cowey of Oxford University and Petra Stoerig of the Institute of Medical Psychology at Ludwig-Maximilians University in Germany have developed procedures by which a monkey can signal whether or not it is consciously aware of a particular visual stimulus.

Sharrock's insight:

from the article: "The definition of consciousness has eluded us for over a century, but many psychologists as well as supporters of the Great Ape Project agree on three classes of evidence: language, self-awareness and "theory of mind.""


I continue to explore these concepts in relation to artificial intelligence and machine consciousness. I am interested in this approach to exploring nonhuman intelligence and nonhuman consciousness. 

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Animal Consciousness (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy/Winter 2006)

There are many reasons for philosophical interest in nonhuman animal (hereafter “animal”) consciousness. First, if philosophy often begins with questions about the place of humans in nature, one way humans have attempted to locate themselves is by comparison and contrast with those things in nature most similar to themselves, i.e., other animals. Second, the problem of determining whether animals are conscious stretches the limits of knowledge and scientific methodology (beyond breaking point, according to some). Third, the question of whether animals are conscious beings or “mere automata”, as Cartesians would have it, is of considerable moral significance given the dependence of modern societies on mass farming and the use of animals for biomedical research. Fourth, while theories of consciousness are frequently developed without special regard to questions about animal consciousness, the plausibility of such theories has sometimes been assessed against the results of their application to animal consciousness.

 

 

Questions about animal consciousness are just one corner of a more general set of questions about animal cognition and mind. The so-called “cognitive revolution” that took place during the latter half of the 20th century has led to many innovative experiments by comparative psychologists and ethologists probing the cognitive capacities of animals. Despite all this work, the topic of consciousness per se in animals has remained controversial, even taboo, among scientists, even while it remains a matter of common sense to most people that many other animals do have conscious experiences.

 
Sharrock's insight:

For nonhuman consciousness exploration and study, I found this quote that opened up interesting possibilities: "While it may seem natural to think that we must have a theory of what consciousness is before we try to determine whether other animals have it, this may in fact be putting the conceptual cart before the empirical horse. In the early stages of the scientific investigation of any phenomenon, putative samples must be identified by rough rules of thumb (or working definitions) rather than complete theories. Early scientists identified gold by contingent characteristics rather than its atomic essence, knowledge of which had to await thorough investigation of many putative examples — some of which turned out to be gold and some not. Likewise, at this stage of the game, perhaps the study of animal consciousness would benefit from the identification of animal traits worthy of further investigation, with no firm commitment to idea that all these examples will involve conscious experience."

I see this quote may be true regarding intelligence, as well.

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