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Monday, July 01, 2013

Thinking and feeling

Oxford University's Practical Ethics blog, Why pet owners know as much as neuroscientists about animal minds ...

[...] Scepticism about the capacity of animals to experience conscious mental states like suffering—let alone more complex ones like grief—is most often associated with the influence of Descartes. Optimists may have reason to hope that scientific evidence about the mental lives of animals will soon extinguish such scepticism: last year a group of eminent neuroscientists published the Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness, which proclaims that humans are not alone in possessing consciousness (for a discussion of the Declaration, see here). Science, it seems, may hold the key to improving the way animals are treated ....

I can't begin to number the times I've read assertions that only human being can ... (fill in the blank with words like 'anticipate the future' or 'dwell on the past', etc.). Any pet owner can testify that's untrue - one simple example: when you take your cat in the car to the vet, the demented shrieks that come from the cat carrier (along with the projectile vomiting) are a sign that 1) your cat remembers past vet experiences, and 2) your cat is anticipating more of the same.

Related - I haven't read this yet, but it looks interesting ... Animal Wise: The Thoughts and Emotions of Our Fellow Creatures by Virginia Morell

“This charming book about animal intelligence….has a nice arc to its structure—working from generally more basic (although still remarkable) cognitive abilities of creatures like adventurous ants to the complex thinking of chimps—and it is threaded through with philosophical questions that are as thought-provoking as the creatures and experiments she chronicles.” – Smithsonian magazine

“For most of the 20th Century, animals weren’t allowed to have emotions…But Virginia Morell’s new book, Animal Wise, tells a new story. After six years of reporting in 11 different countries, the longtime science journalist is pretty certain: Animals feel. And strongly, as it turns out.” —Wired

“Each chapter takes readers on an adventure alongside researchers as they probe the minds of such disparate creatures as ants, trout, dolphins, elephants and chimpanzees.” —Scientific American

See review of the book at Conservation Magazine - Gathering Emotional Intelligence.


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