Terrapin Station wrote:We definitely know that thoughts do not require language. How? Well, both other people like me and I have thoughts that are non-linguistic. Now, definitely some people feel that language is involved in all thought, and they believe that so firmly that I don't doubt that some people only do think linguistically. But some of us can think non-linguistically, too. I'm not implying any value judgment about that. It's not better to think different ways. It's just different.
Re consciousness, this whole subthread was begun by me saying, "I wouldn't say that one can have a thought that one isn't conscious of." I didn't change my view on that. It wasn't an off-the-cuff comment that I had put no thought into. So thoughts definitely require consciousness in my view
I don't agree with the last part (that evolution demands that--logically, there can be a creature that is the first in which consciousness obtains, and humans could be it), but sure, I agree that there are probably a number of other animals that have consciousness, etc. That's because there are a number of other animals with brains that are pretty close in composition and function to ours.
Third person observations of anatomy, behavior, etc. can't give us knowledge-by-acquaintance of other minds. But sure, we can assume that some animals other than humans have mental content, just like we assume that other humans have mental content. The assumption seems reasonable proportionate to just how similar brain composition and function is.
I don’t think there is any agreed upon definition or meaning for terms like consciousness, awareness, perception, thoughts or experience. Different people (even experts and philosophers) use the terms in a variety of ways and in many different settings. Discussions often end up being arguments about the meaning of terms rather than notions of substance.
I don’t understand notions of extreme “human uniqueness”, notions like only humans have consciousness or only humans have awareness or experience. True only humans have extensive language but even there numerous species seem to communicate using sounds to indicate searching for mates, danger or other significant events. Watching corvids solve multiple step puzzles and honey badgers plotting escapes should clearly indicate the ability of other creatures to think, to feel, to plan, to experience, be aware and perceive. The evidence is enormous and mounting daily in all areas, neuroscience, behaviorism, anatomy, functional MRI, etc. Humans are in some ways unique but virtually all human abilities have precursors or parallels in the animal kingdom, and tracing these back in evolution shows they extend far back in nature.
Mind has evolved in nature and nature is filled with various forms of perception, awareness and experience. The most fundamental feature of life is internal homeostasis which implies a certain form of boundaries (self, not self) and perception, awareness and experience (attraction, aversion). The evolution of perceptual organs for seeing, for hearing, for touching, for smelling, and tasting is clear and such abilities show both convergent and divergent evolution. The evolution of the brain is well described across species and similar areas of the brain often serve similar functions in different species. The evidence from trauma, injuries, tumors indicating anatomic mental ability correlates is overwhelming. People rattle on about these subjects seemingly with very little knowledge of or attention to the vast scientific literature which indicates the widespread extent of perception, awareness, experience and other mental abilities (similar to and precursors of similar human abilities. It can even be show animals suffer from the many of the same mental disorders as humans (obsessive compulsive disorders, seizures, anxiety, depression) and respond to similar treatments.
Some people for religious or other reasons (species arrogance) want to think that only humans can think, or have experience, or perceive or have consciousness, or have feelings but the real evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of these mental abilities having a long evolutionary lineage and being found throughout nature. Reason and evolution both demand that we accord experience to nature and thought and feeling to most “higher” forms (and in a more primitive manner) to most “lower” forms of life.
For more fun one can entertain the notion of non-conscious experience, and even non conscious reason or problem solving. Who has not woken up in the morning with a solution to a problem worked on (but not solved) last evening or had a answer pop into their head after giving up on remembering. Most human mental experience takes place below the level of consciousness and most human activity is conducted without translation to language. Humans are entirely too hung up on their internal linguistic dialogue and highly developed sense of “self”. Such activities represent only a fraction (tip of the iceberg) of mental functioning, processing and activity even in our own species. Perception (awareness, experience) need not be conscious. Thought need not be linguistic. To confine such terms to humans only is to ignore the vast mountain of evidence and begs the question of what to call such mental activities and mental operations in non human species.