Do Animals Think?


waiting for a time
Don't think that quite works - I think there's good evidence that animals 'are conscious', and self-aware. Definition of 'conscious'? ;) I get that you're trying to draw a distinction between thought and language there, though.
Alright - if we really want to get into this better start with some definitions.

Consciousness = being more than just self aware. There's so many ways of talking about this - Phenomenal vs access consciousness etc etc... I think consciousness involves not only self awareness, but emotions, the ability to future plan in the far future...

In the initial post I get he feeling that Josef was driving at something more then just phenomenal consciousness. But I don't know - what do we all mean by thought - is it just future planning, or mental modelling of other individuals? This is pretty easy to see in lots of animals - some pretty simple ones too. Which is why I turned to "consciousness" as a better handle than thought.

As that paragraph stands I don't think it's at all convincing - but sure there's more behind that reasoning. Honestly everything there looks hugely questionable but being generous is it the idea of 'agency' that animals are said to be missing?

I think a lot dog owners or chimp handlers would dispute the suggestion that you can't have a reciprocal recognition between humans and animals. But yes, does it matter if they don't 'think like us'? Why should they? We can't even have this kind of reciprocal recognition between all humans I don't think.

Nope, it's not the agency that animals are missing. And no, you can't have reciprocal recognition between a human and an animal - the very fact that one "owns" another and thus has total mastery over the animals freedom prevents it. Reciprocal recognition involves accepting that the other has the same nature as oneself - the same degree of mental engagement with the world, the same rights and responsibilities etc (in simple terms.. that's not quite right). And no, indeed not all humans have true recognition like that - there's plenty of deficient relationships - hence Satre etc..

I mean, Hegel's pretty good on this - he does a good job of describing how you can have selves that are self aware without being fully conscious. For example, the self of "desire' which recognises itself, but treats all other things as objects/food. Really though I can hardly sum it up in a post..


I think consciousness involves not only self awareness, but emotions, the ability to future plan in the far future...

The last would seem to preclude children, no ? As do your comments on ownership, a questionable term to be using here, as it presumes the conclusion (inequality) that you're reaching towards.

I think it'd be more productive to think of the owner/pet relationship in terms of the pact where there is an agreed upon exchange and framework that both parties consent to, ie food & shelter for protection, pest removal etc.

Not to mention that most animals do seem to display emotions.

All the recent research I've seen seems to shrink the gap between human/non-human rather than to expand it and it seems to me we can expect this to continue.


I think consciousness involves not only self awareness, but emotions, the ability to future plan in the far future...
I'm pretty sure that consciousness does not necessarily involve emotions and I'm even more sure that it doesn't require an ability to plan in the far (whatever that means) future. How far is far here? I'm not sure what you're getting at really, I don't see how far someone can plan into the future as having some kind of threshold at which suddenly that person can be said to have consciousness.


Well-known member
i believe alex thinks. also great apes. the rest i havent seen any evidence for, but its possible.