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Insect Consciousness: Commitments, Conflicts And Consequences, Colin Klein, Andrew B. Barron 2016 Macquarie University, Australia

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

Animal Sentience: An Interdisciplinary Journal on Animal Feeling

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 2016 Nanyang Technological University

Consciousness And Evolutionary Biology, Yew-Kwang Ng

Animal Sentience: An Interdisciplinary Journal on Animal Feeling

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 2016 San Francisco State University

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

Animal Sentience: An Interdisciplinary Journal on Animal Feeling

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 2016 University of British Columbia

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

Animal Sentience: An Interdisciplinary Journal on Animal Feeling

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 ...


No Help On The Hard Problem, Derek Ball 2016 University of St Andrews

No Help On The Hard Problem, Derek Ball

Animal Sentience: An Interdisciplinary Journal on Animal Feeling

The hard problem of consciousness is to explain why certain physical states are conscious: why do they feel the way they do, rather than some other way or no way at all? Arthur Reber (2016) claims to solve the hard problem. But he does not: even if we grant that amoebae are conscious, we can ask why such organisms feel the way they do, and Reber’s theory provides no answer. Still, Reber’s theory may be methodologically useful: we do not yet have a satisfactory theory of consciousness, but perhaps the study of simple minds is a way to ...


Unconscious Higher-Order Thoughts (Hots) As Pre-Reflective Self-Awareness?, Rocco J. Gennaro 2016 The University of Southern Indiana

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

Animal Sentience: An Interdisciplinary Journal on Animal Feeling

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 2016 York University Animal Sentience

The Psychological Concept Of “Person”, Kristin Andrews

Animal Sentience: An Interdisciplinary Journal on Animal Feeling

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.


In What Sense Are You A Person?, Pamela Barone, Antoni Gomila 2016 University of the Balearic Islands

In What Sense Are You A Person?, Pamela Barone, Antoni Gomila

Animal Sentience: An Interdisciplinary Journal on Animal Feeling

According to Rowlands, personhood in nonhuman animals calls for a unified mental life and pre-reflective self-awareness provides this. The concept of “person” is fuzzy. Any attempt to define it with necessary and sufficient conditions faces the problem of borderline cases satisfying only some of the conditions to varying degrees. We ask about the implications of a metaphysical sense of personhood for its moral and legal sense. Finally, we address Rowlands’s reliance on pre-reflective self-awareness and present our own criteria for personhood.


“Hot” So Fast, Alex Howe 2016 University of Missouri

“Hot” So Fast, Alex Howe

Animal Sentience: An Interdisciplinary Journal on Animal Feeling

Mark Rowlands’s target article offers a lucid, systematic treatment of a notion of personhood that has had significant influence in philosophy. The orthodox interpretation of this notion of personhood has been that it requires cognitive capacities not possessed by animals. Rowlands disputes this. However, I think his objections to the orthodox, higher-order thought (HOT) theories of mental unity may be too quick. In this commentary, I show two separable places where Rowlands’s objection to HOT theories of mental unity falls short.


Consciousness And The Unity Of Mind, Mark Rowlands 2016 University of Miami

Consciousness And The Unity Of Mind, Mark Rowlands

Animal Sentience: An Interdisciplinary Journal on Animal Feeling

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 2016 Brown University

Insects: Still Looking Like Zombies, Christopher S. Hill

Animal Sentience: An Interdisciplinary Journal on Animal Feeling

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 ...


Consciousness, Perception, And Short-Term Memory, Henry F. Shevlin 2016 The Graduate Center, City University of New York

Consciousness, Perception, And Short-Term Memory, Henry F. Shevlin

All Graduate Works by Year: Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Dissertation Abstract: Consciousness, Perception, and Short-Term Memory

When we engage in almost any perceptual activity – recognizing a face, listening out for a phone-call, or simply taking in a sunset – information must be briefly stored and processed in some form of short-term memory. For philosophers attempting to develop an empirically grounded account of perception and conscious experience, it is therefore crucial to engage with scientific theories of the kinds of short-term memory mechanisms that underlie our moment-to-moment retention of information about the world. To that end, in this dissertation I review recent scientific evidence for a new form of rapid but ...


Seeing And Perceptual Content, Ben S. Phillips 2016 The Graduate Center, City University of New York

Seeing And Perceptual Content, Ben S. Phillips

All Graduate Works by Year: Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

There are two widely held assumptions about perception: ascriber-independence (the view that the facts regarding what a subject perceives, as well as what her perceptual states represent, are independent of the interests of those attributing the relevant states to her), and determinacy (the view that perceptual content is relatively determinate). I challenge both of these assumptions, and develop a new approach to perceptual content, with implications for theories of mental content more broadly. In chapter one, I address the question of whether, in addition to low-level features, vision represents ordinary objects. I argue that there is just no fact of ...


Cognitive Dissonance Or Contrast?, Thomas R. Zentall 2016 University of Kentucky

Cognitive Dissonance Or Contrast?, Thomas R. Zentall

Animal Sentience: An Interdisciplinary Journal on Animal Feeling

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 ...


Evolutionary Continuity Of Personhood, Anne Benvenuti 2016 University of Winchester

Evolutionary Continuity Of Personhood, Anne Benvenuti

Animal Sentience: An Interdisciplinary Journal on Animal Feeling

Rowlands applies the two organizing ideas of the Lockean concept of personhood — mental life and unity — to animals as potential persons. Especially valuable in this context is his descriptive phenomenology of pre-reflective self-awareness as a fundamental form of mental life that necessarily entails unity. Rowland describes certain fundamentals of mental experience that exist across species boundaries, challenging assumptions of early modern philosophers regarding the definition of human personhood and affirming the principle of evolutionary continuity. This opens the door to a broader and deeper set of questions, related to whether we should continue to attempt to apply to other animals ...


Darwin’S Empirical Evidence, Maxine Sheets-Johnstone 2016 University of Oregon

Darwin’S Empirical Evidence, Maxine Sheets-Johnstone

Animal Sentience: An Interdisciplinary Journal on Animal Feeling

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 2016 University of Arizona

Animal Personhood Is An Evolutionary Issue, James E. King

Animal Sentience: An Interdisciplinary Journal on Animal Feeling

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 ...


How Could Consciousness Emerge From Adaptive Functioning?, Max Velmans 2016 Goldsmiths, University of London

How Could Consciousness Emerge From Adaptive Functioning?, Max Velmans

Animal Sentience: An Interdisciplinary Journal on Animal Feeling

The sudden appearance of consciousness that Reber posits in creatures with flexible cell walls and motility rather than non-flexible cells walls and no motility involves an evolutionary discontinuity. This kind of “miracle” is required by all “discontinuity” theories of consciousness. To avoid miraculous emergence, one may need to consider continuity theories, which accept that different forms of consciousness and material functioning co-evolve but assume the existence of consciousness to be primal in the way that matter and energy are assumed to be primal in physics.


Ecopsychology Revisited: For Whom Do The “Nature” Bells Toll? (In Progress), Jorge Conesa-Sevilla 2016 European Ecopsychology Society

Ecopsychology Revisited: For Whom Do The “Nature” Bells Toll? (In Progress), Jorge Conesa-Sevilla

Jorge Conesa-Sevilla PhD

"[...] A recurring theme in “ecopsychology,” in its present and inchoate form, is the continuation and extension of “spirit” in juxtaposition with other privileged and/or habitually preferred (perhaps even psychologically needed) practices or causes (spirituality-somethings, farcical chemistry or physics, yoga, coopted and partially understood indigenous lore, extreme diets, and various fetishes). That these mostly emotion-laden, unreasoned, and/or idiosyncratic amalgamations are prevalent says more about the psychological needs of the persons espousing these sentiments or beliefs (their hobbies or interests) than about “nature.” Certainly, it is nothing new that humans project their hopes, desperations, and wish-fulfillment thinking onto the shifting ...


“Cellular Basis Of Consciousness”: Not Just Radical But Wrong, Brian Key 2016 The University of Queensland

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

Animal Sentience: An Interdisciplinary Journal on Animal Feeling

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 ...


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