What animals can teach us about consciousness

June 19, 2022 Mark Fabian/ Heather Browning & Walter Viet Season 3 Episode 10
What animals can teach us about consciousness
Show Notes

Mark is joined by Heather Browning from the London School of Economics and Walter Veit from the University of Sydney who their ideas regarding the nature of consciousness, what we can learn about consciousness from animal studies, and the implications for animal welfare. Should we think of consciousness as some special property unique to human minds, or is it in fact merely a particular high degree of sentience? If it's the later, then cephalopods seem curious, honeybees are capable of solving complex optimisation problems, and fish have split brains similar to those of conscious humans whose left and right hemispheres have been split by accident. Should we then conclude that are animals are conscious, albeit not in the same way as humans? What are the implications of this for ethical practice with animals in research, pets, and zoos? Heather was a zookeeper before she was a philosopher and bring a practical perspective to these issues. Heather, Walter, and Mark share a wide-ranging conversation taking in bioethics, cognitive science, and what the philosophy of mind can learn from biology. Enjoy!

Heather’s website: https://www.heatherbrowning.net/ 

Walter’s website: https://walterveit.com/ 

Heather’s PhD thesis: 41. Browning, H. (2020).  If I Could Talk to the Animals: Measuring Subjective Animal Welfare. PhD Thesis (Australian National University).
https://doi.org/10.25911/5f1572fb1b5be [Download] 

Walter’s forthcoming book: Veit, W. (Manuscript). A Philosophy for the Science of Animal Consciousness. Manuscript in preparation.

Godfrey-Smith, P. (2016). Other minds: The octopus, the sea, and the deep origins of consciousness. William Collins.  

The hard and soft problem of consciousness: http://www.scholarpedia.org/article/Hard_problem_of_consciousness#:~:text=The%20hard%20problem%20of%20consciousness,with%20phenomenal%20qualities%20or%20qualia). 

Philosophical zombies: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/zombies/ 

Nagel, T. (1974). What is it like to be a bat? The Philosophical Review, vol. 83, no. 4, pp. 435–450. https://warwick.ac.uk/fac/cross_fac/iatl/study/ugmodules/humananimalstudies/lectures/32/nagel_bat.pdf  

Dan Dennett against the hard problem as special: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eSaEjLZIDqc 

Patricia Churchland against the hard problem as special:  https://web.ics.purdue.edu/~drkelly/ChurchlandTheHornswoggleProblem1996.pdf 

de Haan, E. et al. (2020). Split brain: What we know now and why this is important for understanding consciousness. Neuropsychology Review, vol. 30, no. 1, pp. 224–233. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11065-020-09439-3 

Hofstadter, D. and Dennett, D. (2001). The mind’s I: Fantasies and reflections on self and soul. Basic Books. 

Robot wars: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=psY_3k0uiRI 

Edelman, D. and Seth, A. (2009). Animal consciousness: A synthetic approach. Trends in Neuroscience, vol