Consciousness and Conscience
January 27, 2018 8:11 PM Subscribe
But even as Switzerland provides animals with increasing legal protections, some animal advocates say the rights currently afforded to animals don’t go far enough. […] Lauren Choplin of the non-profit Nonhuman Rights Project, which litigates for animals’ fundamental rights, told Quartz on Jan. 17, “in our view, the law hasn’t caught up to what we know about animal cognition, and it needs to.” Indeed, our evolving understanding of animal consciousness suggests that we have some uncomfortable philosophical and legal work ahead.
Richard Ryder: All beings that feel pain deserve human rights
The word speciesism came to me while I was lying in a bath in Oxford some 35 years ago. It was like racism or sexism - a prejudice based upon morally irrelevant physical differences. Since Darwin we have known we are human animals related to all the other animals through evolution; how, then, can we justify our almost total oppression of all the other species? All animal species can suffer pain and distress. Animals scream and writhe like us; their nervous systems are similar and contain the same biochemicals that we know are associated with the experience of pain in ourselves.Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Animal Cognition
The philosophical issues that relate to research on animal cognition can be categorized into three groups: foundational issues about whether non-human animals are the proper subject of psychological investigation; methodological issues about how to study animal minds; and more specific issues that arise from within the specific research programs.
While the study of animal cognition is largely an empirical endeavor, the practice of science in this area relies on theoretical arguments and assumptions — for example, on the nature of mind, communication, and rationality. If nonhuman animals don’t have beliefs, and if all cognitive systems have beliefs, then animals wouldn’t be the proper subjects of cognitive studies. If animals aren’t agents because their behavior isn’t caused by propositional attitudes, and if all cognitive systems are agents, we get the same conclusion. While there are arguments against animal minds, the cognitive scientists studying animals largely accept that animals are minded, cognitive systems. As demonstrated by the 2012 Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness, many scientists also accept animal consciousness.
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