HumanBeingsandGiantSquids.doc - This paper appeared in Philosophy vol 69 no 268 1994 Human Beings and Giant Squids David Cockburn 1 A television nature

HumanBeingsandGiantSquids.doc - This paper appeared in...

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This paper appeared in: Philosophy , vol 69 no 268, 1994 Human Beings and Giant Squids David Cockburn 1. A television nature programme a year or two ago contained a striking sequence in which a giant squid was under threat from some other creature (no doubt a human'being with a video camera). The squid responded in a way which struck me immediately and powerfully as one of fear. Part of what was striking in this sequence was the way in which it was possible to see in the behaviour of a creature physically so very different from human beings an emotion which was so unambiguously and specifically one of fear. I would guess, but have not been able to confirm, that most who saw this film would see in the giant squid's response something similar to what I saw. I cannot, however, offer a description of the squid's behaviour which might help to convince someone who has not seen the film and who is sceptical: a description such that they are likely to agree that if it really did behave like that then it was certainly correct to ascribe fear to it. That I cannot do so is not, I think, merely a reflection of my very limited descriptive powers. It is a reflection of the fact that there is no more fundamental description of the squid's response than 'fleeing in fear': no other form of description which underlies, and so might provide support for, this one. My aim in this paper is to establish this point and to bring out its significance for two very different ways in which philosophers have spoken of our ascriptions of sensations and emotions to non-human creatures. In the first chapter of Animal Liberation Peter Singer offers what he takes to be an essential preliminary to the argument of the rest of the book. If we are to show that we have a moral obligation not to cause unnecessary suffering to animals we must, according to Singer, first establish that animals are capable of suffering. He attempts to do this in the following way: 'Do animals other than human beings feel pain? How do we know? Well, how do we know if anyone, human or non-human, feels pain? We know that we ourselves can feel pain. We know this from the direct experience of pain that we have when, for instance, somebody presses a lighted cigarette against the back of our hand. But how do we know that anyone else feels pain? We
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cannot directly experience anyone else's pain, whether that "anyone" is our best friend or a stray dog. Pain is a state of consciousness, a "mental event", and as such it can never be observed. Behaviour like writhing, screaming, or drawing one's hand away from the lighted cigarette is not pain itself; nor are the recordings a neurologist might make of activity within the brain observations of pain itself. Pain is something that we feel, and we can only infer that others are feeling it from various external indications. . . . This is an inference, but a perfectly reasonable one, based on observations of their behaviour in situations in which we would feel pain, and on the fact that we have every reason to assume that
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