On animal consciousness

Two viewpoints on the recent Cambridge Declaration of Consciousness at the Cosmic Variance and the Conscious entities blogs.

I’m personally sympathetic to the idea of a continuum of consciousness between humans and animals; that is, that no demarcation line can be drawn between conscious and non-conscious beings.

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8 thoughts on “On animal consciousness”

  1. Shouldn’t you be saying you’re ‘sympathetic to the idea of a continuum of ? between humans and animals’? This declaration is analogous to a Council of Alchemists declaring that henceforth lead should be valued the same as gold!

    I have no problems with extending rights to animals, but I just do not see how this argument gets off the ground. The more we learn about consciousness and the brain, the more confusing it all becomes. It strikes me as a classic case of just how bad humans are when it comes to moral reasoning.

      1. It’s not clear that we have *any* understanding, unless a morass of contradictory guesswork counts as ‘understanding.’ If we don’t know what consciousness is how can we assert (or at least very strongly imply) that animals have it? You have to admit, it’s more than a little hinky, if not downright dishonest.

        1. In your view then, how do we humans know that we have it? Is it by first-person subjective experience, which we of course cannot have for animals? And it’s just a coincidence, or at least irrelevant, that we have much of the same neural underpinnings as animals?

  2. Personally, I don’t *know* how we know, only that we know precious little. The question of whether the substantial overlap in neurology means that animals might have this thing we’re guessing about is a good one, awaiting some kind of definitive answer. I think it could be true that mammals, at least, possess some kind of ‘creature consciousness,’ but this remains *speculation.* It could be for instance, that consciousness is the product of the recursive processing required to translate neural information into linear, auditory signals – which is to say, language. Nobody knows. Pretending otherwise, even in the name of a laudable goal, is deceptive, plain and simple.

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