Do animals have consciousness?

If so, what differentiates humans from animals?

So, since this is a philosophy sub-forum, definitions tend to reign supreme.

In the context of your question, what do you mean by ‘consciousness’? What does it include? What does it exclude? Does it have any relationship to ‘rationality’ in any form?

Once we can agree what we’re talking about, we can start talking about it… :wink: :+1:

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By consciousness, I’m mostly referring to perceptual consciousness, which is essentially awareness (of anything). I’m also wondering about the ability to think.

Animals are conscious and I’d say most of larger and more complex animals have unified sensory and perceptual experiences.

Thinking is another word that needs some defining. Again with the larger/more complex ones we see powers of memory, imagination, and estimation. But I would say those are distinct from thought, which we haven’t seen in any non-human organisms. Separate from that, those types of animals also feel emotions.

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OK. Sorry to be a pest, but: what does “awareness” mean? Does it only speak to physical perception and recognition of one’s surroundings? Or does it have something to do with the mental processes that engage these sensory perceptions?

And again, what do you mean by “think”? Are you asking whether there are processes going on in an animal’s brain? Or are you talking about ratiocination?

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Any being having senses can be described as conscious, because senses imply the ability to sense.

This doesn’t just mean refined perceptors such as our eyes, skin, and noses, but the lowliest earthworms with feelers.

But consciousness per se is IMNAAHO overrated. It doesn’t imply a mind or the faculties that make us human.

ICXC NIKA

Fr Groeschel gave he best explanation I’ve heard

He said that animals live intensely in the moment, have a vague recollection of the past and no concept of the future.

Domestic animals behavior like dogs, is conditioned and not something they came up with on their own.

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Yes, I mean physical perception of surroundings. By “think,” I just mean the ability to deliberate on decisions (such as what to eat, which pathway to take, etc.) and to experience emotions.

I never thought about it that way. We often hear often about how Dog is man’s best friend but that is largely down to us moulding them to the environment we create for them. They have no capacity of thinking or free will or else they would be held morally accountable as we are. When we discipline our dogs for example it doesn’t understand why it is wrong, only that it’s master is displeased with them so they learn how to do as they are told without understanding why or caring, all just to appease their master

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I used to do a lot of running. And often take my dog. When I leave the house and turn left it’s a relatively flat route out and back. It’s the easy option. But if I turn right there’s an immediate steep hill and I use that route for a relatively long and hard workout.

The ol’ pooch used to get excited about going out but he reached a point when he started thinking about exactly how far he really wanted to go ‘walkies’. To the point where he’d wait to see which direction I went and then he’d either follow me or go back and paw the door to be let back in.

Wasn’t he exhibiting free will? As in ‘I’m happy going left for a nice trot but mate, if you’re doing that hill again I want to go back inside and lie on the couch’.

An animal behaving in accordance with it’s biological makeup does not imply free will. For example an animal may defend itself rigorously if it feels threatened but it is merely acting exactly in accordance with it’s makeup. Your dog may have realized that such a long and hard route would lead to it end up feeling very uncomfortable which it naturally will try and avoid. Free will is the ability to act in a way that leads to the common good. What is good to animals is merely acting according to their senses unless trained otherwise by a rational being, us

An animal acts according to it’s nature even as it pleases according to it’s senses but it has no way to rationalize nor care what is good or bad. Our problem sometimes is we project how we feel and act onto our pets meaning we assume they think as we do. We think they love especially when they defend us however they have no idea what love is (to will the good of the other). They are merely acting in accordance with what their senses view a correct unless trained otherwise by their owner in whom they seek to please as it’s master. I believe our projection of our nature onto animals is leading to all sorts of radicalization by many in animal rights groups who hold animals to the same standing as us because they are convinced animals have free will

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@Freddy

Thomists would distinguish between (non-rational) animals acting by appetite alone and rational animals acting by will. There is a parallel between the two, but the will is distinguished from appetite in that it follows from proper knowledge, i.e. concepts (mental expressions of universal forms abstracted from the conditions of matter). Animals in appetition still do have powers of memory, imagination, and estimation which are employed. Humans have both appetition and the rational will.

Edit: I expanded on this in a later post. The faculties I called appetite and will could be more properly called, according to Thomists, the sensitive appetite and the intellective appetite. Non-rational animals have the former, rational animals (humans) both.

Do you want to suggest that animals “deliberate”? (That’s what I mean by ‘ratiocinate’, by the way.) Do you mean “reach a decision”? Or are you talking about a particular process of utilizing reason?

We’re getting closer now!

What do “emotions” mean, in this context? Isn’t that a faculty that’s particularly human? Or, do you mean “exhibit actions which, when experienced by humans, include ‘emotion’, and therefore, by extrapolation, must mean ‘emotion’ in animals too”?

For me, this isn’t the main question. (Scientists can debate it.) To me what matters is:

  1. God created humans in the image and likeness of God.
  2. God created non-human animals over which humans have dominion.
  3. God models for humans what ‘dominion’ is supposed to look like, by being a Lord who serves us. And at Jesus’ birth, being laid in a manger (a food trough for lower animals, to symbolize how Jesus would ultimately be ‘food’ for us humans, who are, in comparison to God, profoundly low animals).
  4. Therefore we humans should be loving stewards over the well-being of non-human animals, regardless of what scientists say about their ‘consciousness’ at any given point in time.

Doesn’t exclude eating them, by the way. Different topic. But basically, I’m happy to admit that I don’t understand exactly what the meaning is, of these non-human animals we share the planet with. But I trust there are meanings, and in the meantime the pragmatic thing is that we should imitate God’s good and kind dominion over us, by exercising good and kind dominion over other animals.

Free will is what? Something that leads to the common good?

I have seen quite a lot of arguments along these lines recently. If a question is asked who has free will or rationality or conscious thoughts then very often someone will define the term in question is such a way so that is only applicable to humans.

So how is free will the ability to act in a way that leads to the common good? If I decide to massacre my neighbours and I am not coerced in any way but simply exercise my free will, then does that lead to the common good? Or are you really suggesting that if I kill them so I can steal everything in their house I can get my hands on then I am not acting freely?

And that if my pooch literally makes a rational decision that he would rather lie on the couch than run a few kays with me then he is not exhibiting a free will choice?

Free will is associated with morality. Of that there is no doubt. But free will decisions do not have to be associated with it.

What do “emotions” mean, in this context? Isn’t that a faculty that’s particularly human? Or, do you mean “exhibit actions which, when experienced by humans, include ‘emotion’, and therefore, by extrapolation, must mean ‘emotion’ in animals too”?

Not that St. Thomas is absolutely the final word on the subject, but he did consider emotion to be a sensitive faculty and not an intellective faculty, meaning that he held that animals also feel emotion.

Unrelated to that and going back to my distinction between appetite and will, it might be more technical for what I meant by the former to call it a sensitive appetite, whereas what we call the will is an intellective appetite.

Of course animals make decisions. My dog decided he wanted to go out with me. Then he realised what was going to be involved and changed his mind.

I don’t know what form his thought processes were but surely his doggy train of thought, transcribed to a human equivalent would be: 'Yaay, we’re going out for a walk. But hang on. Freddy’s going right which means it’s going to be a long and exhaustive hour. I ‘d rather not do that. All things considered I would rather lie on the couch. Sorry Fred. I’ve changed my mind’.

So the sensitive appetite would equate to ‘I’m excited because we’re going out for a walk’. And the intellective appetite would be: ‘Hang on. I don’t mind going thataway. But the other way leads to some discomfort. I’d rather stay here’.

The first is simply an emotional reaction. The second is based on rational thought.

Dr. David Anders addressed the nature of human and animal souls, closely related, in his show today. It begins at about 5:40 into the vid.

So the sensitive appetite would equate to ‘I’m excited because we’re going out for a walk’. And the intellective appetite would be: ‘Hang on. I don’t mind going thataway. But the other way leads to some discomfort. I’d rather stay here’.

The first is simply an emotional reaction. The second is based on rational thought.

When dogs debate philosophy and start passing down oral knowledge and writings we’ll have a basis for saying they have an intellective appetite. The choice before the dog can furthermore be accomplished by sensitive faculties alone. The dog has memories, imagination, the ability to make estimations, and emotions. And through these faculties it can react to preferences.

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