Animal Sentience

Commentary Type

Invited Commentary


According to Reber’s theory, the Cellular Basis of Consciousness (CBC), sentience originates as bio-sensitivity in unicellular organisms. For this reason, Reber regards sentience as evolutionarily foundational. Many bacteria show chemotaxis and, thus, according to CBC, they are sentient. Analysis of the genetic mechanisms underlying bacterial chemotaxis indicates that sentience has no explanatory power in this case. Genetic analysis also fails to show species continuity underlying bio-sensitivity in bacteria and bio-sensitivity in species with nervous systems, so it does not seem that sentience is evolutionary foundational. CBC is rejected on these grounds.

Author Biography

Michael L. Woodruff is Professor Emeritus of Biomedical Sciences and of Psychology at East Tennessee State University. Author of more than 120 professional publications, his research interests include cognitive neuroscience and the philosophy of mind. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Michael_Woodruff3/info