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Unformatted text preview: 9/22/2009 9/22/2009 1 Are animals Are animals conscious conscious conscious conscious beings? beings? What is it like to be a bat? What is it like to be a bat? Essay by Thomas Nagel Essay by Thomas Nagel (1974) (1974) In In The Philosophical Review The Philosophical Review 83(4):435 83(4):435-450 450 Famous paper in literature on animal consciousness Famous paper in literature on animal consciousness Bats emit ultrasound and use echoes returning from objects to analyze size, shape, distance, and velocity of those objects. This is sonar-like process is called echolocation . Nagel argued we cannot know if bats are Nagel argued we cannot know if bats are conscious in a humans sense of that word. conscious in a humans sense of that word. bat sonar, though clearly a form of perception, is not similar in its operation to any sense that we possess, and there is no reason to suppose that it is subjectively like anything we can experience or imagine. Can bats see scenes with ultrasound? Can bats see scenes with ultrasound? Partial answer : Perhaps, but use of scenes would have limited usefulness (because sound travels much more slowly than light) travels much more slowly than light). ButThe ButThe Astonishing Hypothesis Astonishing Hypothesis You, your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, Are nothing more than the workings of a huge and complex assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules. -- Francis Crick, paraphrased From The Astonishing Hypothesis: The Scientific Search for the Soul If true, shouldnt we be able to determine if animals are conscious beings? But Crick argued that we should first figure out what human consciousness is. 9/22/2009 9/22/2009 2 However knowledge about animal consciousness may be key to decisions about animal welfare. Can we afford to wait? By Marian Stamp Dawkins By Marian Stamp Dawkins And the evolutionary perspective suggests that our understanding of human consciousness benefits from understanding other species. Problems with definitions Problems with definitions These definitions have a circular quality, since words are used to define each other Consciousness : the totality of the impressions Consciousness : the totality of the impressions, thoughts, and feelings which make up a persons conscious being Oxford English Dictionary Feeling : pleasurable or painful consciousness Oxford English Dictionary So dont define it? So dont define it? [consciousness is] a phenomenon, known vividly to each of us as individuals but impossible to define in any simple way (Dawkins) perhaps we should not try to find [a simple straightforward] definition for... it could be positively misleading (Dawkins) heartbreak of premature definition (Dennett) one doesnt have to define what a battle is to fight in one (Crick) Elements of consciousness Elements of consciousness A. Complex neural processing (awareness)A....
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This note was uploaded on 12/09/2009 for the course ECOL 487R taught by Professor Papaj during the Spring '09 term at University of Arizona- Tucson.
- Spring '09