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Full-Text Articles in Philosophy

Reef Society And The Tyranny Of Data, Robert Wintner Dec 2016

Reef Society And The Tyranny Of Data, Robert Wintner

Animal Sentience

Modern science now approaches divergent processes in many areas, including health assessments of marine eco-systems and social aspects of marine species. Scientific data have long enjoyed a reputation for objectivity but incidents of science-for-hire, data spinning/skewing and political jading are more frequent than ever. In the field of reef creature sensitivity, technical treatises can “logically” explain away what a person of average education can clearly observe on any given reef. Western medicine discounted anecdotal evidence of any cure outside the 4% margin of error until those cures demanded attention and in some cases application. Modern science must now enter ...


Still Wondering How Flesh Can Feel, Gwen J. Broude Dec 2016

Still Wondering How Flesh Can Feel, Gwen J. Broude

Animal Sentience

Reber believes he has simplified Chalmers’s “hard problem” of consciousness by arguing that subjectivity is an inherent feature of biological forms. His argument rests on the related notions of continuity of mind and gradual accretion of capacities across evolutionary time. These notions need to be defended, not just asserted. Because Reber minimizes the differences in mental faculties among species across evolutionary time, it becomes easier to assert, and perhaps believe, that sentience is already present in early biological forms. The more explicit we are about the differences among these mental faculties and the differences across species, the less persuasive ...


Animals Aren’T Persons, But Is It Time For A Neologism?, Helen Steward Dec 2016

Animals Aren’T Persons, But Is It Time For A Neologism?, Helen Steward

Animal Sentience

Mark Rowlands argues that at least some animals are persons, based on the idea that (i) many animals have a property he calls “pre-reflective awareness,” (ii) the capacity for pre-reflective awareness is sufficient to satisfy the traditional Lockean definition of personhood, and (iii) satisfaction of the traditional Lockean definition of personhood is sufficient for being a person. I agree with (i) and can see that there is a persuasive case for (ii), but I think the case against (iii) blocks the conclusion that animals are persons. I suggest that we may need instead to coin a neologism in order to ...


Reber’S Caterpillar Offers No Help, Carl Safina Dec 2016

Reber’S Caterpillar Offers No Help, Carl Safina

Animal Sentience

Reber’s target article “Caterpillars, consciousness and the origins of mind” seems only to shift but not to address the question of where the mind is and how minds occur.



Insect Consciousness: Commitments, Conflicts And Consequences, Colin Klein, Andrew B. Barron Nov 2016

Insect Consciousness: Commitments, Conflicts And Consequences, Colin Klein, Andrew B. Barron

Animal Sentience

Our target article, “Insects have the capacity for subjective experience,” has provoked a diverse range of commentaries. In this response we have collated what we see as the major themes of the discussion. It is clear that we differ from some commentators in our commitments to what subjective experience is and what the midbrain is capable of. Here we clarify where we stand on those points and how our view differs from some other influential perspectives. The commentaries have highlighted the most lively areas of disagreement. We revisit here the debates surrounding whether the cortex is essential for any form ...


Consciousness And Evolutionary Biology, Yew-Kwang Ng Nov 2016

Consciousness And Evolutionary Biology, Yew-Kwang Ng

Animal Sentience

Reber’s axiom: “Any organism with flexible cell walls, a sensitivity to its surrounds and the capacity for locomotion will possess the biological foundations of mind and consciousness” does not seem to be supported by things we know and the logic of evolutionary biology. The latter leads to the conclusion that conscious species are flexible in their behavior (rather than in their cell walls), as argued in Ng (1995, 2016). Locomotion may be completely hard-wired and need not involve consciousness. It is hard enough to explain how consciousness could emerge in a sophisticated brain: Isn’t it a harder problem ...


The Difference Between Conscious And Unconscious Brain Circuits, Ezequiel Morsella, Zaviera Reyes Nov 2016

The Difference Between Conscious And Unconscious Brain Circuits, Ezequiel Morsella, Zaviera Reyes

Animal Sentience

Theoretical frameworks in which consciousness is an inherent property of the neuron must account for the contrast between conscious and unconscious processes in the brain and address how neural events can ever be unconscious if consciousness is a property of all neurons. Other approaches have sought answers regarding consciousness by contrasting conscious and unconscious processes and through investigating the complex interactions between the two kinds of processes, as occurs most notably in human voluntary action. In voluntary action, consciousness is associated most, not with motor control or low-level perceptual processing, but with the stage of processing known as action selection.



Resolving The Hard Problem And Calling For A Small Miracle, Arthur S. Reber Nov 2016

Resolving The Hard Problem And Calling For A Small Miracle, Arthur S. Reber

Animal Sentience

With the exception of the commentary by Key, the commentaries on Reber have a common feature: the commenters feel, with varying levels of enthusiasm, that there is at least some virtue in the core assumption of the Cellular Basis of Consciousness (CBC) theory that consciousness (or subjectivity or sentience) accompanies the earliest forms of life. The model has two important entailments: (a) it resolves the (in)famous Hard Problem by redirecting the search for the biochemical foundations of sentience away from human consciousness; and (b) it reduces the need for an emergentist miracle to a far simpler scale than is ...


Unconscious Higher-Order Thoughts (Hots) As Pre-Reflective Self-Awareness?, Rocco J. Gennaro Nov 2016

Unconscious Higher-Order Thoughts (Hots) As Pre-Reflective Self-Awareness?, Rocco J. Gennaro

Animal Sentience

Rowlands argues that many nonhuman animals are “persons,” contrary to the prevailing orthodoxy which rests on a mistaken conception of the kind of self-awareness relevant to personhood. He argues that self-awareness bifurcates into two importantly different forms — reflective self-awareness and pre-reflective self-awareness — and that many animals can have the latter, which is sufficient for personhood. I agree that there is good reason to think that many animals can have pre-reflective self-awareness, but I think Rowlands is mistaken about its nature. His account runs the risk of leading to an infinite regress objection, and his notion of pre-reflective self-awareness actually sounds ...


The Psychological Concept Of “Person”, Kristin Andrews Nov 2016

The Psychological Concept Of “Person”, Kristin Andrews

Animal Sentience

Reluctance to overextend personhood seems to drive many of the skeptical responses in the first round of commentaries on Rowlands's target article. Despite Rowlands’s straightforward Response that we already accept some nonhumans as persons, there is still hesitation to accept that other nonhuman animals are persons. Rowlands's argument is sound but the skeptics don’t accept the Lockean notion of person. The metaphysical sense of person is a psychological one, however, and psychological properties grant one moral status according to many ethical theories.


Consciousness And The Unity Of Mind, Mark Rowlands Oct 2016

Consciousness And The Unity Of Mind, Mark Rowlands

Animal Sentience

Several types of objection have been raised against the arguments I presented in my target article, “Are animals persons?” Among the objections are the following: (1) the claim that animals are persons is of little significance, (2) my use of the Lockean conception of the person is questionable, (3) whether a creature qualifies as a person is a matter of social construction rather than objective fact, (4) reflective consciousness is more important than I realize, (5) my reliance on implicit self-awareness in the account of personhood is ill-advised, (6) my account entails that too many creatures qualify as persons, and ...


Insects: Still Looking Like Zombies, Christopher S. Hill Oct 2016

Insects: Still Looking Like Zombies, Christopher S. Hill

Animal Sentience

In arguing that insect brains are capable of sentience, Klein & Barron rely heavily on Bjorn Merker’s claim that activity in the human mid-brain is sufficient for conscious experience. I criticize Merker’s claim by pointing out that the behaviors supported by midbrain activity are much more primitive than the ones that appear to depend on consciousness. I raise a similar objection to Klein & Barron’s contention that insect behaviors are similar to behaviors that manifest consciousness in human beings. The similarity is weak. I also respond to the related view that integrative activity in mid-brain structures is sufficient to ...


Cognitive Dissonance Or Contrast?, Thomas R. Zentall Sep 2016

Cognitive Dissonance Or Contrast?, Thomas R. Zentall

Animal Sentience

According to Festinger (1957), cognitive dissonance occurs when one’s behavior or belief is inconsistent with another belief and one modifies one of the beliefs in an attempt to reduce the dissonance. In nonhuman animals, we have examined a version of human cognitive dissonance theory called justification of effort, according to which the value of reward following more difficult tasks increases, presumably to justify (to oneself or to others) performing the more difficult task. We have examined the justification of effort effect in animals and found a pattern similar to the one in humans but we propose a simpler underlying ...


Darwin’S Empirical Evidence, Maxine Sheets-Johnstone Sep 2016

Darwin’S Empirical Evidence, Maxine Sheets-Johnstone

Animal Sentience

Darwin’s extensive writings may seem antiquated to current thinkers with their predilections for cognitive science, neuroscience, and analytic branches of philosophy. He showed that morphologies are not simply taxonomic distinctions that allow classification into species. They describe living animals, hence morphologies-in-motion: animate forms of life engaged in synergies of meaningful movement, all of which are testimony to animal sentience.


Animal Personhood Is An Evolutionary Issue, James E. King Sep 2016

Animal Personhood Is An Evolutionary Issue, James E. King

Animal Sentience

The Rowlands target article makes a case, based on John Locke’s metaphysical argument, that personhood can be applied to many species beyond a few nonhuman primates. The problem with this argument is that personhood has an open-ended list of defining attributes and can, at best only be partially applied to nonhuman species. Therefore, a dichotomous distinction cannot be made between qualifying and non-qualifying species. Instead, between-species comparisons must be based on observational and experimental procedures to demonstrate the extent to which human mental attributes are shared with other species. This would allow a more informed view about the appropriateness ...


“Cellular Basis Of Consciousness”: Not Just Radical But Wrong, Brian Key Sep 2016

“Cellular Basis Of Consciousness”: Not Just Radical But Wrong, Brian Key

Animal Sentience

Reber (2016) attempts to resuscitate an obscure and outdated hypothesis referred to as the “cellular basis of consciousness” that was originally formulated by the author nearly twenty years ago. This hypothesis proposes that any organism with flexible cell walls, a sensitivity to its surrounds, and the capacity for locomotion will possess the biological foundations of mind and consciousness. Reber seeks to reduce consciousness to a fundamental property inherent to individual cells rather than to centralised nervous systems. This commentary shows how this hypothesis is based on supposition, false premises and a misunderstanding of evolutionary theory. The cellular basis of consciousness ...


Beginnings: Physics, Sentience And Luca, Carolyn A. Ristau Sep 2016

Beginnings: Physics, Sentience And Luca, Carolyn A. Ristau

Animal Sentience

According to Reber’s model, Cellular Basis of Consciousness (CBC), sentience had its origins in a unicellular organism and is an inherent property of living, mobile organic forms. He argues by analogy to basic physical forces which he considers to be inherent properties of matter; I suggest that they are instead the stuff of scientific investigation in physics. I find no convincing argument that sentience had to begin in endogenously mobile cells, a criterial attribute of the originator cell(s)for sentience according to CBC. Non-endogenously mobile cells, (i.e., plants or precursors) in a moving environment would suffice. Despite ...


Might Insects Experience Pain?, Robert W. Elwood Sep 2016

Might Insects Experience Pain?, Robert W. Elwood

Animal Sentience

The aim of this commentary is to expand the discussion about subjective experience to other arthropods, notably crustaceans. Various species of crustaceans show responses consistent with their feeling pain. Hermit crabs also show prolonged investigation of new shells. They clearly attend to and integrate information from a wide variety of sources that enable them to evaluate the quality of the new shell relative to their current shell. These observations too are consistent with their having subjective experience.


Phenomenal Consciousness In Insects? A Possible Way Forward, Brian Key Sep 2016

Phenomenal Consciousness In Insects? A Possible Way Forward, Brian Key

Animal Sentience

Klein & Barron (2016) propose that subjective experience in humans arises in the midbrain and then argue that insects have the capacity for subjective experience because their nervous system can perform neural processing similar to that of the midbrain. This approach ultimately fails because it is built on the false premise that the midbrain is the source of the awareness of sensory stimuli. I instead propose that the capacity for subjective experience must be based on fundamental neural computations that generate the “what it feels like” experience. Two such computations associated with metarepresentations and high level representations entering working memory are ...


Subjective Experience In Insects: Definitions And Other Difficulties, Shelley Adamo Aug 2016

Subjective Experience In Insects: Definitions And Other Difficulties, Shelley Adamo

Animal Sentience

Whether insects have the potential for subjective experiences depends on the definition of subjective experience. The definition used by Klein & Barron (2016) is an unusually liberal one and could be used to argue that some modern robots have subjective experiences. From an evolutionary perspective, the additional neurons needed to produce subjective experiences will be proportionately more expensive for insects than for mammals because of the small size of the insect brain. This greater cost could weaken selection for such traits. Minimally, it may be premature to assume that small neuronal number is unimportant in determining the capacity for consciousness.


Bacteria And The Cellular Basis Of Consciousness, Michael L. Woodruff Aug 2016

Bacteria And The Cellular Basis Of Consciousness, Michael L. Woodruff

Animal Sentience

According to Reber’s theory, the Cellular Basis of Consciousness (CBC), sentience originates as bio-sensitivity in unicellular organisms. For this reason, Reber regards sentience as evolutionarily foundational. Many bacteria show chemotaxis and, thus, according to CBC, they are sentient. Analysis of the genetic mechanisms underlying bacterial chemotaxis indicates that sentience has no explanatory power in this case. Genetic analysis also fails to show species continuity underlying bio-sensitivity in bacteria and bio-sensitivity in species with nervous systems, so it does not seem that sentience is evolutionary foundational. CBC is rejected on these grounds.


Unity Of Consciousness In Animals, Bernard E. Rollin Aug 2016

Unity Of Consciousness In Animals, Bernard E. Rollin

Animal Sentience

Both Descartes the rationalist and Hume the empiricist, polar opposites philosophically, denied the unity and continuity of animal mind. Kant pointed out that the presence of retrievable memories entails unity of consciousness. Rowlands now argues that animals too have unity of consciousness.


To Bee Or Not To Bee?, Shimon Edelman, Roy Moyal, Tomer Fekete Aug 2016

To Bee Or Not To Bee?, Shimon Edelman, Roy Moyal, Tomer Fekete

Animal Sentience

Klein & Barron’s (2016) (K & B’s) case for insect consciousness is a welcome development in an area that, in all of the science and philosophy of mind, is probably the most anthropocentric. In this commentary, we seek to strengthen K & B’s side of the argument by appealing not just to putative neural mechanisms but also to computational theory that supports it (section 1). We also offer some remarks on three distinctions that are relevant to K & B’s thesis and are central to phenomenal awareness: between the capacity for awareness and its contents (section 2); between awareness and selfhood (section 3); and between “easy” and “hard” problems in consciousness research (section 4).


No Proof For Subjective Experience In Insects, Holk Cruse, Malte Schilling Aug 2016

No Proof For Subjective Experience In Insects, Holk Cruse, Malte Schilling

Animal Sentience

Klein & Barron (2016) provide an inspiring review collecting arguments that show quite related functions in humans and insects. Here we extend the comparison to robots, and formulate two critical objections. One concerns an epistemological question related to the phenomenon of subjective experience. The other questions whether insects need integrated spatiotemporal modeling for navigation.


What Makes Us Conscious Is Not What Makes Us Human, Ezequiel Morsella, Erica B. Walker Aug 2016

What Makes Us Conscious Is Not What Makes Us Human, Ezequiel Morsella, Erica B. Walker

Animal Sentience

Consistent with the promising proposal of Klein & Barron (K & B), we discuss how what makes us conscious appears to be distinct from and more widespread in the animal kingdom than what distinguishes us from other species. Many of the abilities that do distinguish humans from other species (e.g., syntax and co-articulation in speech production) can be mediated unconsciously. The kind of functional architecture proposed by K & B may engender an “action selection bottleneck” in both humans and nonhuman species. As noted by K & B, this bottleneck is intimately related to conscious processing.


Insect Consciousness: Fine-Tuning The Hypothesis, Jon Mallatt, Todd E. Feinberg Aug 2016

Insect Consciousness: Fine-Tuning The Hypothesis, Jon Mallatt, Todd E. Feinberg

Animal Sentience

Although we are mostly supportive, we point out the strengths and weaknesses of Klein & Barron’s (2016) hypothesis that insects have the most basic form of consciousness. The strengths are in their application of Bjorn Merker’s vertebrate-derived ideas to arthropods, using their deep knowledge of insect brains. The weaknesses involve the controversial aspects of some of Merker’s ideas. We describe how the latter can be modified to strengthen the authors’ case for insect consciousness.


Feel Or Perspective?, Mark Rowlands Aug 2016

Feel Or Perspective?, Mark Rowlands

Animal Sentience

The title of Klein & Barron’s well-argued and thought-provoking target article is, “Insects have the capacity for subjective experience.” However, they also frame their claim using the term “consciousness,” which they seem to take as equivalent to “subjective experience.” This assumed equivalence, I shall argue, is problematic in a way that might vitiate their central argument.


Universal Modes Of Awareness? A “Pre-Reflective” Premise, Uta M. Jürgens Aug 2016

Universal Modes Of Awareness? A “Pre-Reflective” Premise, Uta M. Jürgens

Animal Sentience

Mark Rowlands holds that creatures endowed with pre-reflective awareness may qualify as persons: In pre-reflective awareness, the self and the unity of mental life are implicit in the stream of experience. Rowlands generalizes from an introspective analysis of pre-reflective consciousness in humans to pre-reflective awareness in general. I describe three examples of empirical findings that corroborate the assumption that animal minds have some of the same basic modes of pre-reflective awareness as human minds.


What If Klein & Barron Are Right About Insect Sentience?, Bob Fischer Aug 2016

What If Klein & Barron Are Right About Insect Sentience?, Bob Fischer

Animal Sentience

If Klein & Barron are right, then insects may well be able to feel pain. If they can, then the standard approach to animal ethics generates some implausible results. Philosophers need to develop alternatives to this framework to avoid them.


Subjective Experience And Moral Standing, Andy Lamey Aug 2016

Subjective Experience And Moral Standing, Andy Lamey

Animal Sentience

Klein & Barron’s analysis focuses on the capacity for any subjective experience at all. It does not seek to demonstrate that insects can experience pleasure and pain in particular. This would be something of which insects have not traditionally been thought capable. If further research were to demonstrate that one or more insect species turn out to be conscious, yet incapable of experiencing pleasure and pain, it would give rise to a philosophical question that ethicists have yet to answer: Would a creature that is conscious, but lacks the capacity to feel pain, have moral standing?