Many traditional attempts to show that nonhuman animals are deserving of moral consideration have taken the form of an argument by analogy. However, arguments of this kind have had notable weaknesses and, in particular, have not been able to convince two kinds of skeptics. One of the most important weaknesses of these arguments is that they fail to provide theoretical justifications for why particular physiological similarities should be considered relevant. This paper examines recent empirical research on pain and, in particular, explores the implications of the dissociation between the sensory and the affective pain pathways. It is argued that these results show that the belief that nonhuman animals experience pain in a morally relevant way is reasonable, though not certain. It is further argued that the proposal to explore the relationship between consciousness and various forms of learning challenges the aforementioned skeptics to provide more physiological details for their claims that nonhuman mammals are probably not conscious.
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Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: 01 August 2006