Animal Sentience: An Interdisciplinary Journal on Animal Feeling

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To what degree are non-human animals conscious? We propose that the most meaningful way to approach this question is from the perspective of functional neurobiology. Here we focus on subjective experience, which is a basic awareness of the world without further reflection on that awareness. This is considered the most basic form of consciousness. Tellingly, this capacity is supported by the integrated midbrain and basal ganglia structures, which are among the oldest and most highly conserved brain systems in vertebrates. A reasonable inference is that the capacity for subjective experience is both widespread and evolutionarily old within the vertebrate lineage. We argue that the insect brain supports functions analogous to those of the vertebrate midbrain and hence that insects may also have a capacity for subjective experience. We discuss the features of neural systems which can and cannot be expected to support this capacity as well as the relationship between our arguments based on neurobiological mechanism and our approach to the “hard problem” of conscious experience.

Author Biography

Colin Klein is Senior Lecturer in the Department of Philosophy at Macquarie University. He works on philosophy of neuroscience with a side interest in the perception of pain and other homeostatically relevant states. In 2014 he received an ARC Future Fellowship to look at interventionist approaches to cognitive neuroscience. http://www.colinklein.org

Andrew B. Barron is Associate Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Macquarie University. With his team at Macquarie, he is exploring the neurobiology of major behavioural systems such as memory, goal-directed behaviour and stress from a comparative and evolutionary perspective. In 2015 he was awarded an ARC Future Fellowship to develop a computational model of the honey bee brain. http://bio.mq.edu.au/research/groups/cognitive-neuroethology/dr-andrew-barron/

Article Thread

Klein, Colin and Barron, Andrew B. (2016) Insects have the capacity for subjective experience Animal Sentience 2016.100

Mather, Jennifer A. and Carere, Claudio (2016) Cephalopods are best candidates for invertebrate consciousness Animal Sentience 2016.107

van Hateren, J. H. (2016) Insects have agency but probably not sentience because they lack social bonding Animal Sentience 2016.108

Merker, Bjorn H. (2016) Insects join the consciousness fray Animal Sentience 2016.109

Tye, Michael (2016) Are insects sentient? Animal Sentience 2016.111

Allen-Hermanson, Sean (2016) Is cortex necessary? Animal Sentience 2016.113

Lamey, Andy (2016) Subjective experience and moral standing Animal Sentience 2016.114

Fischer, Bob (2016) What if Klein & Barron are right about insect sentience? Animal Sentience 2016.115

Rowlands, Mark (2016) Feel or perspective? Animal Sentience 2016.117

Mallatt, Jon and Feinberg, Todd E. (2016) Insect consciousness: Fine-tuning the hypothesis Animal Sentience 2016.118

Morsella, Ezequiel and Walker, Erica B. (2016) What makes us conscious is not what makes us human Animal Sentience 2016.120

Shanahan, Murray (2016) Consciousness as integrated perception, motivation, cognition, and action Animal Sentience 2016.122

Cruse, Holk and Schilling, Malte (2016) No proof for subjective experience in insects Animal Sentience 2016.123

Edelman, Shimon; Moyal, Roy; and Fekete, Tomer (2016) To bee or not to bee? Animal Sentience 2016.124

Adamo, Shelley (2016) Subjective experience in insects: Definitions and other difficulties Animal Sentience 2016.127

Paul, Elizabeth S. and Mendl, Michael T. (2016) If insects have phenomenal consciousness, could they suffer? Animal Sentience 2016.128

Key, Brian (2016) Phenomenal consciousness in insects? A possible way forward Animal Sentience 2016.132

Elwood, Robert W. (2016) Might insects experience pain? Animal Sentience 2016.133

Søvik, Eirik and Perry, Clint (2016) The evolutionary history of consciousness Animal Sentience 2016.135

Hill, Christopher S. (2016) Insects: Still looking like zombies Animal Sentience 2016.143

Klein, Colin and Barron, Andrew B. (2016) Insect consciousness: Commitments, conflicts and consequences Animal Sentience 2016.153