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A Case for Conservatism about Animal Consciousness

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Liberal theories of animal consciousness maintain that we should attribute consciousness widely across various species. Conservative theories of animal consciousness maintain that we should not attribute consciousness widely. This paper makes a case for a conservative theory of animal consciousness. The case depends on two defensive moves and one offensive move. The defensive moves indicate that the indistinguishable causal profiles of conscious and nonconscious mental states are not a problem for conservative theories and that intuitions about animal consciousness should not play a role in theory selection. Offensively, I argue that liberal theories of animal consciousness are less parsimonious than conservative theories. The upshot is that liberal theories of animal consciousness are not obviously rationally preferable to conservative theories.
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Keywords: animal minds; comparative ethology; consciousness; evolutionary psychology; parsimony; theory of mind

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, Duke University, 417 Chapel Dr., Durham, NC, 27708, USA., Email: [email protected]

Publication date: January 1, 2020

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