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54276Re: [evol-psych]do animals 'know'?

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  • Jay R. Feierman
    Jun 1, 2007
      Andy Lock: I would not wish to deny animal 'subjectivity' , in the sense of their living in a perceptual world. 
      Jay R. Feierman: Today, when I was changing the water in my dogs' water dish in the kitchen, I noticed a small black bug on the floor, on its back but with its legs still moving. I proceeded to get a napkin and pick up the bug, crushing it with my fingers through the napkin as I did this. As I looked at the crushed bug in the napkin in my hand, I said to myself, "I wouldn't have been able to do that so easily, if I thought the bug was conscious." 
      I am defining consciousness as "the awareness of self-awareness," where awareness is defined as "the ability to attend to and utilize sensory and perceptual stimuli as behaviorally-biasing information (that which reduces uncertain and which is necessary to make decisions)."
      Using these definitions, consciousness would be the awareness that one can, although one does not have to, utilize sensory and perceptual stimuli (both from within and from without of the self), as information by which to bias one's behavior. By bias one's behavior I mean to influence it in a specific way.
      In order to have a subjectivity, one has to first be at least conscious. Otherwise, one's behavior is being governed by the equivalent of an automatic pilot on a commercial airplane, which moves the airplane through space and over time with no input from a brained organism.
      To have consciousness and subjectivity, one needs a fairly well developed forebrain, especially a well developed pre-frontal cortex, as this is an area of brain which can plan action (behavior) without the need to implement it. Among the primates it may be just the great apes and humans who have consciousness and a subjectivity. One of the benefits of consciousness is that it allows one to see oneself in the third person, which then allows one to do planning about ones future behavior as though one were a consultant, who was advising someone else how to behave. In this case, the someone ese is one's self. Gallup's red dot on the nose in the mirror experiment, where only the great apes but not monkey's recognized the red dot as being on their nose, suggests to me that the great apes, along with humans, have consciousness and subjectivity. I'm not willing to attribute subjectivity to any other taxa, even though the other taxa live in a perceptual world.
      To join the Human Ethology Yahoo Group, go to http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/human-ethology/ .
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