Attention, Working Memory, and Animal Consciousness

Authored by: Jesse Prinz

The Routledge Handbook of Philosophy of Animal Minds

Print publication date:  July  2017
Online publication date:  July  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138822887
eBook ISBN: 9781315742250
Adobe ISBN:

10.4324/9781315742250.ch17

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Abstract

In order to decide whether nonhuman animals are conscious, it is helpful to begin with an empirically motivated account of the precise conditions under which consciousness arises in human beings. Reliance on behavior alone can lead to shaky inferences. Many animals behave very differently from humans, and behaviors associated with consciousness can be carried out without a central nervous system; for example, an excised octopus leg will avoid noxious stimuli (Alupay et al., 2014), and scratching behavior in sea turtles can be controlled by the spine (Stein, et al. 1995). In humans, much of what can be done consciously can also be done unconsciously (e.g., Prinz, 2017). Confidence about other animals will increase if we can identify mechanisms that match the correlates of consciousness in us. Here I will briefly summarize an account of those mechanisms, defended at great length elsewhere, and I will suggest that a surprising number of taxa may satisfy its fairly demanding conditions.

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