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Who Needs Consciousness?

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Abstract:

Thinking about animal consciousness is beset with many pitfalls, a few of which are: i) lack of clarity in words used, especially confusing 'cognition' with 'consciousness' and using words such as 'emotion' in both an objective sense (behaviour and physiology) and to imply consciousness; ii) failing to acknowledge sufficiently that different people use different versions of the argument from analogy with ourselves to infer consciousness in non-humans in animals; iii) assuming that choice and preference imply consciousness; iv) assuming that autonomic responses imply consciousness (a particular danger to those who look for physiological 'measures' of animal welfare); v) assuming that complexity of behaviour implies complexity of cognition and in turn consciousness; and vi) assuming that only cognitively complex organisms are conscious. Consciousness raises many questions of direct relevance to animal welfare that as yet have no answers, but finding possible answers may be made slightly easier if we avoid these obvious pitfalls.

Keywords: ANIMAL WELFARE; COGNITION; CONSCIOUSNESS; EMOTION

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: February 1, 2001

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