Research Papers

Research Paper on Animal Cognition

The issue of non-human animals having consciousness has important philosophical implications, not least for their moral status. It is controversial and positions are diverse, from Descartes’s view that animals can be likened to dispassionate and unconscious machines to the theories that attribute to the animal rich cognitive abilities. The topic has gained renewed relevance since the latter part of the 20th century, when the so-called “cognitive revolution” took place. Experiments that have been performed suggest that some animals, such as chimpanzees, have a far more developed mentally life than previously thought, although they still differ greatly from humans.

A crucial distinction in question is the one between consciousness and self-consciousness, in which the latter less frequently attributed to animals, although some claim that, for example, some primates are self-aware.

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One reason the issue of animal cognition is difficult to answer is the lack of consensus on how to define consciousness. Some psychologists argue that it is not possible to find a common core for the various uses of the term. One can see five main kinds of consciousness. First, it is said sometimes a creature to be aware when they are awake, unlike when it sleeps. Secondly, the term about the ability to see and react over one’s environment. None of these kinds of awareness is controversial to attribute to animal. The third kind of consciousness, or definition of consciousness, formulated by Block in his article On A Confusion About a Function of Consciousness in 1995. Access consciousness is described as the ability to create mental representations of their surroundings and with the help of these perform cognitive tasks such as scheduling, reasoning, ability to categorize and voluntarily turn attention on something. Block himself believed that some animals have this ability, but others, such as Donald Davidson, denies this.

The fourth type of consciousness is called “phenomenal consciousness” and refers to the qualitative, subjective, or phenomenological aspects of conscious experience. Thomas Nagel has argued that some animals possess this ability. He describes it as “something” that belongs to a specific species. He believes that it is difficult, if not impossible, to know what it’s like to be a bat, for example, but guess it is somehow.

The fifth type of consciousness is self-consciousness, which can be described as tability to be aware of one’s own consciousness. Although most people think that the thesis that certain animals are self-aware is falsifiable and thus impossible to test empirically, so there is no consensus on the issue. The self-consciousness is located close to the property to be aware of other creatures of consciousness.

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