Animal Consciousness

Authored by: Sean Allen-Hermanson

The Routledge Handbook Of Consciousness

Print publication date:  March  2018
Online publication date:  March  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138936218
eBook ISBN: 9781315676982
Adobe ISBN:


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Animal consciousness continues to draw the attention of philosophers, scientists and general audiences and is tethered to ongoing debates about fundamental questions of mind, knowledge, and morality. Phenomenal consciousness is very hard to define without reference to itself, and perhaps the best one can say is something along the lines of “states of mind with a qualitative feel” (Nagel 1974). Knowing which animals are sentient and knowing what it is like, that is, what kind of consciousness they possess, are respectively known as the Distribution and Phenomenological questions (Allen 1998) and essentially aspects of the problem of other minds extended to nonhumans (Allen and Trestman 1995/2016). Indeed, our ignorance about other species is arguably the quintessential formulation (Harnad 2016). Knowing anything about phenomenological feel is especially difficult, with the exception of when it is like nothing (Akins 1993) or for qualitative experiences regarding which we have first-hand acquaintance (Allen-Hermanson 2017), though see Thompson (1992), Thompson et al. (1992) and Matthen (1999) for reflections on alien perceptual qualities in nonhumans, especially colors. As much more has been written on the problem of distribution, this chapter will focus on providing an overview of the main philosophical responses to curiosity about which animals are conscious.

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