Perception is usually understood to ground defeasible epistemicwarrant for belief — for example, if you look outside and itappears to be raining, you have some grounds to believe that it israining. It is difficult to forgo this assumption without succumbingto radical global skepticism, since we base so many of our beliefs onperception. If seeming to perceive something to be the case providesdefeasible epistemic warrant for believing it to be the case, than thefact the I seem to perceive a dog as being happy and playful warrantsmy belief that the dog is happy and playful, i.e. warrants myascription of mental states to the dog. Given the prima facieepistemic support of seeming to perceive mental states in familiaranimals like dogs, perceptualists would argue that only overwhelmingevidence should overturn the common-sense, intuitive attribution ofmental states to those animals. Whereas, as discussed above,Carruthers (1989) argues that because his theory denies consciousnessto animals, we should strive to eradicate our intuitive attributionsof consciousness, a perceptualist would respond that the evidencederived from our perceptual encounters with dogs is more convincingthan his arguments (which hang on the plausibility of his higher orderthought theory of consciousness; see section 6.1).
Photo provided by Pexels
Early physicalist accounts of consciousness explored the philosophicalconsequences of identifying consciousness with unspecified physical orphysiological properties of neurons. In this generic form, suchtheories do not provide any particular obstacles to attributingconsciousness to animals, given that animals and humans are built uponthe same biological, chemical, and physical principles. If it couldbe determined that phenomenal consciousness was identical to (or atleast perfectly correlated with) some general property such as quantumcoherence in the microtubules of neurons, or brain waves of a specificfrequency, then settling the Distribution Question would be astraightforward matter of establishing whether or not members of otherspecies possess the specified properties. Searle (1998) too, althoughhe rejects the physicalist/dualist dialectic, also suggests thatsettling the Distribution Question for hard cases like insects willbecome trivial once neuroscientists have carried out the non-trivialtask of determining the physiological basis of consciousness inanimals for which no reasonable doubt of their consciousness can beentertained (i.e., mammals).
Therefore we should reject animal rights.
Photo provided by Pexels
This comparison of animal behavior to the unconscious capacitiesof humans can be criticized on the grounds that, like Descartes'pronouncements on parrots, it is based only on unsystematicobservation of animal behavior. There are grounds for thinking thatcareful investigation would reveal that there is not a very closeanalogy between animal behavior and human behaviors associated withthese putative cases of unconscious experience. For instance, it isnotable that the unconscious experiences of automatic driving are notremembered by their subjects, whereas there is no evidence thatanimals are similarly unable to recall their allegedly unconsciousexperiences. Likewise, blindsight subjects do not spontaneouslyrespond to things presented to their scotomas, but must be trained tomake responses using a forced-response paradigm. There is no evidencethat such limitations are normal for animals, or that animals behavelike blindsight victims with respect to their visual experiences(Jamieson & Bekoff 1992).
The Rights of Animal Persons - Animal Liberation Front
Systematic study of self-consciousness and theory of mind in nonhumananimals has roots in an approach to the study of self-consciousnesspioneered by Gallup (1970). Gallup's rationale for linkingmirror-self recognition to self-awareness has already been discussedabove. The idea for the experiment came from observations well-knownto comparative psychologists that chimpanzees would, after a period ofadjustment, use mirrors to inspect their own images. Gallup usedthese observations to develop a widely-replicated protocol thatappears to allow a scientific determination of whether it is merelythe mirror image per se that is the object of interest to theanimal inspecting it, or whether it is the image qua proxy for theanimal itself that is the object of interest. Taking chimpanzees whohad extensive prior familiarity with mirrors, Gallup anesthetized hissubjects and marked their foreheads with a distinctive dye, or, in acontrol group, anesthetized them only. Upon waking, marked animals whowere allowed to see themselves in a mirror touched their own foreheadsin the region of the mark significantly more frequently than controlswho were either unmarked or not allowed to look into a mirror.
The Rights of Animal Persons ..
A variety of carefulexperimental work with animals shows impressive abilities forintegrated what-where-when memory — the ability to recalldetails of an event together with its location and time. This work waspioneered by Clayton and colleagues with scrub jays, focusing on theircaching behavior — wherein the birds bury food and later recoverit (Clayton et al. 2003). For example, if scrub jays are preventedfrom recovering their caches for long enough, they will recover onlynonperishable items (peanuts, in the study), ignoring their caches ofotherwise preferred but perishable food (mealworms, in the study)(Clayton et al. 2003). Recent work has also documented what isreferred to as ‘episodic-like memory’ in rats (Crystal2009), and the apparent ability to plan for the future (including innovel ways that are not plausible ruled out as ‘mereinstinct’) in several animals, including nonhuman primates,birds, rats and other mammals (Feeney et al. 2011 for an example ofrecent experimental work; see Roberts 2012 for a review anddiscussion).