The Question of Animal Awareness: Evolutionary Continuity of Mental Experience

The Question of Animal Awareness: Evolutionary Continuity of Mental Experience

The Question of Animal Awareness: Evolutionary Continuity of Mental Experience

The Question of Animal Awareness: Evolutionary Continuity of Mental Experience

Excerpt

A ferment of constructive excitement is evident in ethology, the study of animal behavior with emphasis on evolutionary adaptations to the natural world. For example, social organization, individual recognition, altruistic behavior, endogenous activity rhythms or biological clocks, and complex systems of orientation and navigation have been identified in more and more species not previously suspected of having such complications in their ways of life. All scientific discoveries contain some element of novelty, but ethologists now feel confident in making statements that differ qualitatively from anything that was scientifically thinkable forty or fifty years ago. Since there is no reason to believe that this progress will suddenly come to a halt, it is worthwhile to outline some directions in which ethology may develop. In this attempt at speculative extrapolation, it is especially appropriate to pose some new questions and to reopen certain old ones from a fresh perspective. Most of these questions relate to the general issue of our evolutionary kinship to other species of animals, with special reference to the more complex cognitive functions that appear to regulate the behavior of animals and men.

Many thoughtful colleagues, individually and collectively, have provided essential stimulation without which this book would never have been written. Most important has been the stimulating environment of The Rockefeller University, which provided the opportunity for serious and consistent concentration on distant objectives. Thomas Nagel of Princeton University supplied an immediate spur while visiting our campus when he raised the question of whether animals have mental experiences. Peter Marler and Fernando Nottebohm, along with many other colleagues, offered invaluable and always constructive criticism. The "negative feedback" from my colleagues has been just as . . .

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