Do Animals Have Minds?

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Humans have for centuries pondered on the mind, its existence, its beginning, it’s limit, it’s substance, and fought many different arguments against them all. But how do we know if any animals have a mind? Is intelligence unique to humans? Professor Donald Griffin has pointed out that “consciousness is not a tidy all-or-nothing entity, it varies with age, culture, experience and gender. And if animals have conscious experiences, these presumably vary widely as well.” If humans have minds, it must be possible that animals also have minds. And though no one would believe that earthworms and earwigs have thought processes like our own, it has been proven that chimps share 98% of genome with humans. Chimps have also shown that they can lie and cheat their competitors, with apes being able to recognise themselves in a mirror- this showing they are capable of self- awareness, the very thing which separates us from the animals. From this we can easily see that chimps and apes must have minds, but to a lesser capacity than that of our own. Professor David Armstrong has thrown at us the inadequacies of behaviourism- it is not to be trusted fully in establishing the ability of the mind in other animals, but it will certainly help us in finding it.

In this day and age, we look to science for reason. Science has been what has excelled us so quickly since its revolution in the 17th century and onwards. We have created many advanced machines with science—we have banished their faults with science. And so in looking for the mind in other animals we will be looking toward science, reasonably. ‘Human intelligence seems to be composed of a number of correlated and cooperating neural functions, many of them already present in other primates, su...

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... become a very reliable thing. What is self- evident is not necessarily true, but what is scientifically proven generally is.

Humans are aware that other humans have minds because we can share these experiences. The difficulty with validating whether animals have minds is that we cannot share experiences with animals, communication is difficult. Though this may be changing. Experts in symbolic language with chimps and apes are able to communicate with each other in sign language. ‘Experiments with chimps Koko and Washoe and gorilla Kenzi have shown that they are able to invent new words, construct abstract phrases and express their feelings using American Sign Language or computer-based symbolic language.’ This is hard scientific evidence proving that these primates do have intelligence and a mind nearly like our own, though the extent is far from being displayed.
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