Animal Pain and New Mysticism About Consciousness

Disregarding animal sentience is a stupid move.

On November 9, 2017, more than 500 people gathered at the Flat Earth International Conference in Cody, North Carolina. Attendees agreed that the Earth is shaped like a Frisbee, with the North Pole as its centre and Antarctica running around the edge.

Shocking as all this may sound, this gathering was not stupidest collective act that occurred this month. In the noble competition for collective stupidity, it only took the silver medal. The clear winner is the recent decision by Tory MPs in the UK to remove any reference to animal sentience from the EU Withdrawal Bill.

This decision has been often misreported for clickbait purposes, so the facts first. In 2009 all countries of the EU signed the Lisbon treaty, which recognized that animals are sentient beings: they feel pain and have emotions. If the UK is no longer part of the EU, there will be no legal recognition of animals as sentient beings. Green MP Caroline Lucas proposed an amendment that would rectify this. It was

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Gordon Knight 9 March 2019

There may be a few contemporary philosophers who reject the claim that non-human animals are conscious, but I can't think of any, though of course Descartes did. I'm also not sure what Professor Nanay means by "mysticism about consciousness" he looks to apply it to anyone who takes the first person perspective seriously. How this counts as "mysticism" is beyond me. My knowledge of my own pain is quite straightforward and not very mysterious at all. In any case, the trend among many "mystic" philosophers is towards a position quite opposed to Descartes, as the recent resurgence of interest in panpsychism attests. I'd even suggest that it is the reductive materialist who is trending towards this sort of nihilism about the mental, though not just with respect to non-human animals . In any case there is no logical connection between the thesis that consciousness is irreducible and the absurd doctrine only humans have it.

Extros Deinos 8 December 2017

Saying that philosophy is to blame is so superficial. And then giving Aristotle and Kant as examples. C'mon. Please give relevant examples concerning current issues from maybe this decade, ok? Philosophy is not only its history. As with everything, as our knowledge grows, it grows.

Garee Hilsdon 1 December 2017

This was nothing to do with science or philosophy, this was a vote down the party lines; the conservatives and DUP on one side and every other party on the other. The conservatives simply couldn't bare to 'lose' this vote, and reason and science was nowhere to be seen.

A Valentine 30 November 2017

To suggest that there are a great many philosophers who wish to cut ties with the scientific community because they are territorial about issues such as consciousness, to the point that they refuse to make their studies interdisciplinary at the risk of being outright wrong in their conclusions...this is an extremely unfortunate view of the philosophical community.

Philosophy is rich in its exploration of consciousness - many are (and HAVE been) trying to understand consciousness and experience, qualia, and the like on multiple levels - by exploring theories in computation, neuroscience, and evolutionary theory. "What it is like to be a bat" by Thomas Nagel is a prime example of trying to reconcile subjective human experience with that of other entities and creatures.

And while the education of these MPs may be top-tier on paper, such that they might have encountered minor philosophical debates around the greater Western thinkers in their academic studies, I don't think its fair to put the blame on philosophy. Firstly, what you study and what you know are two entirely different animals. Similarly, what an MP's personal beliefs on animal sentience are and what they believe best aligns with their constituency's goals for the term, those are also two separate animals.

We must also consider that there isexisting domestic legislation about Animal rights, and that intuitively any garnered expertise on the subject should look to zoologists, experts in animal behavior, rather than delving into a meta-level discussion in the middle of a parliamentary activity. The repeal bill is tackling some 80,000 pieces of legislation. To even read those let alone discuss them within the timeframe of Brexit is completely unrealistic, and that is something that has to be considered here.