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Found 1 result

  1. 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. (In fact, the topic interests me enough that I will probably pursue a PhD in it at some point later in life once I feel like returning to academia.) 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 species-specific traits, such as formal discursive language in human beings. 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. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0168159116302192 And the original research, in case you are interested in the primary source: http://www.appliedanimalbehaviour.com/article/S0168-1591(16)30219-2/fulltext 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 and experience the world. Even what we have discovered is astounding. For instance, this is a model of horse vision: https://eventingconnect.today/2016/11/25/ever-wonder-how-your-horse-sees-the-world-video-break/ 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. http://fcmconference.org/img/CambridgeDeclarationOnConsciousness.pdf 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. https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/cognition-animal/ https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/consciousness-animal/ I hope you find this information useful and stimulating. I will endeavor to provide new links and thoughts in this thread for others over time, as well as engage in discussion and explanation as necessary.