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      24 June 2017 12:00 AM
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    • Hello all, I decided I'd start a thread on the study of nonhuman cognition and consciousness. Cognitive Ethology is a very inchoate field that combines philosophy of mind with neuroscience and cognitive science as well as animal behavioral sciences.

      Although having some background in a scientific or philosophical field is helpful to understanding the topic at hand, I can clarify and explain in a way that is accessible to anyone who is curious. Please feel free to ask away. I don't bite. Well, sometimes I do instinctively, but not here.

      There are many many misunderstandings about nonhuman cognition and thought, especially that of consciousness, which is mostly due to quite grand historic biases and misconceptions of the animal and the human being, in particular issues of human supremacy and transcendence in earlier humanistic philosophies. Many dated tests, such as the "mirror test" are completely bunk, but still frequently referred to by pop culture. Since this is a topic that interests me greatly and something I did formal research in during my education (and continue to research autodidactically), I figured I get a topic rolling on it and perhaps be able to answer some questions.

      Believe it or not, there is actually a field devoted to the study of kinds of consciousness and thought that goes even beyond psychology. Philosophy of mind is a formal academic discipline that complements scientific studies of mind. I did my BA in this field, so I can help a bit with understanding it. The fact is, consciousness is made of many different parts, different "kinds" of consciousness with varying levels of complexity and interdependence. The human being is a particular collection and organization of cognitive traits in various degrees and ways. Each individual member of a species is itself a unique organization of mind and consciousness given that they develop neural pathways according to their embodied experience of the world. There are many analogs in the animal kingdom and each species can be conceived of as a reordering and regrouping of sets of traits that are pervasive and common across the world. It is supposed that there are no uniquely human cognitive properties, that each aspect of humanity is shared with other species, but the particular organization of traits gives rise to certain traits, such as formal language. This becomes a major point of contention because some thinkers like Noam Chomsky believe that language learning is a unique human instinct with a kind of symbolic thought that no nonhumans are capable of. However, just recently, it was demonstrated that horses can use representation language to intentionally communicate.


      And the original research, in case you are interested in the primary source:

      While horse people like me are shrugging their shoulders at the obviousness of it from interacting with the species, it is a major breakthrough in science and undermines many previously false preconceptions. While it may seem like science sometimes devotes a lot of effort to proving the obvious with rigor, it is necessary because, throughout history, the obvious has so frequently proven wrong. For me, I have never doubted for a second that nonhuman animals lived rich inner, conscious, minded lives, but the act of actually proving this scientifically is bleeding edge research that few human beings care to actually engage. Sadly, if there were more interest in doing so, we would have likely unlocked many wondrous discoveries about how nonhuman animals think. Even what we have discovered is astounding.

      For instance, this is a model of horse vision:

      Keep in mind that you yourself are watching this model with a human brain and human eyes, constructing meaning and perceptual experience through wetware you can't possibly escape. The way the horse sees its own vision is inaccessible to us because we are interpreting its eye's properties with our human brains. We would have to have identical horse brains to see as a horse sees (its focus and thought about seeing, its qualia, it's what-it-is-like-to-be or perception) because the horse's optic nerve is a complex system interpreting visual data, eliminating junk info and focusing on those things that are pertinent  to the horse's survival as an embodied being in the world, which is then fed into an even more complex system of its central executive functions. You can't replicate that with a human brain any more than I can see the very way you see the color red with your brain. (This actually gets into the largest problem in philosophy in the 21st century called "The Hard Problem of Consciousness" by philosopher David Chalmers.)

      I'll start with two links. The first is to the "Cambridge Declaration of Consciousness". Scientists have pretty much come to consensus on the consciousness of nonhuman animals.

      The second links are to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article entry on cognitive ethology. This is a rather advanced discipline so the technical jargon is quite heavy. But I can assist with understanding where necessary.
    • My other favorite forum feels like its dying, and I'm just a bit distressed. I hope this one grows well and fills some of a void that is currently resting in my heart. I love communities- I love the forums..but it's natural order sometimes. 
    • Music:

      Btw, Mishima, the music above is from a movie about the life of the Japanese author. Mishima felt that we spend too much intellectual effort on the mind and not enough on the body. He was an actual samurai in modern times who cultivated a practice and followers around training and being his body. He sadly suffered from major depression and had a major episode that resulted in his death when he committed seppuku. The movie is a very interesting art film
    • Thank you! It's probably the closest I can get to being a horse in the world at this time. There are many symbolic parallels for me. The bow is made of horse hair. The act is a performance like an animal trained, and it feels like it to me too. When I work on violin, I find myself fighting myself like an animal that is untamed. I have to find ways to trick myself into learning and practicing. Kind of weird way to think of it, and I'm not for training animals like this actually. But it is ethical for me to do so for myself because I am willing. Nice to meet you! :-D I always feel joy meeting other horses as they are relatively rare.

      I think you would love these modern classical compositions:

      "Equus" by Eric Whitacre

      "Runaway Horses" by Philip Glass

      I'll post links in another comment below so I don't get in the way of the text.

      I kind of remember although for me they are like sense impressions without specific meaning. When I remember I remember all the details, every moment and every sensation. My self-awareness is also very muted. I can feel myself doing, but it is like I have to do it, it just happens. I've trained my body to rely on muscle memory while performing so I don't even know what my hands and arms are doing while playing. I don't know what notes. I kind of dissolve into my body, and my body becomes indistinct from my surroundings, just hyper awareness of what without talking to myself about what.

      I remember in the moment of playing that, the sweat running down my face, huffing heavily into the mask and almost snorting, hearing cues from my partner on the piano. My partner always leads our improvisations. He's a composer and a bit like my trainer, directing me where to go musically, and I play off it with a kind of instinctual will of my own, forcing him to adapt to wildness and unpredictable turns. I hear cues and respond with motions, like a horse moving its body to a subtle twitch of the leg or a click of the tongue. But it was like becoming my hearing, becoming my feelings, not thinking about them but just doing. I can't see anything in the mask at all, and I'm not conscious of what I look like to others. It's like having blinders on and having to trust my partner with where I go. He's my partner of, hmm, 7 years now actually! He knows and has known I am a horse. My other member who isn't in that video is also a very close friend who is always aware of my therian identity. They aren't therians themselves, and I wouldn't feel right sharing much personally about them without their permission. But they really love folklore and the idea behind the music. The violist first introduced me to the myth of Nokken as she is a major Norwegian folklore aficionado.
    • Vacillant/suntherian options for the "shifting experiences" field. Not all otherkin experience legitimate shifts. The two are synonymous but it may be best just to put "Vacillant" there since it is more inclusive. With that in mind, include fluctuations on the "shift triggers" area. It could be like "shifts/fluctuations". The ability to make profiles private and/or only available to certain people (such as mutual followers). This was a feature on the old forum. If this forum doesn't have it, could it be coded in? The ability to edit/delete blog entries again and to also choose the privacy of those. I don't understand why those features were taken away but they did exist after the forum moved and blog entries aren't exactly like posts in which it wouldn't make sense if you deleted/edited them. It's a nuisance to have to go and delete my blog every time I want to clean it up as a whole (I just like to be able to do things myself regarding this stuff so I don't want to message a staff member every single time). Thank you.
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