Do Horses Gallop in Their Sleep?
By Matt Cartmill Let me suggest a thought experiment. Imagine. if you will. that there’s a certain bunch of nervus cells in the encephalon that’s indispensable for witting consciousness. Now suppose that a certain drug suppresses nervous activity in merely this karyon. with no consequence on the remainder of the encephalon. Subjects who take this drug do things as usual. but they experience nil. The drug converts them into somnambulists. Finally. imagine that I’ve developed a new signifier of this drug. which has lasting effects. It abolishes consciousness everlastingly. with no consequence on behaviour. I want to prove it on you. How much will you bear down to take it? I think the inquiry answers itself. Spending your life as a somnambulist is tantamount to being dead. and so you will bear down me whatever monetary value you would bear down to perpetrate self-destruction. I offer this thought experiment to chase away the impression that witting consciousness is excessively metaphysical and subjective a phenomenon for scientific discipline to concern itself with.
The phenomenon of consciousness is the beginning of all value in our lives. As such. it should be at the top of the scienti?c docket. Yet despite its cardinal importance. consciousness is a topic that most scientists are loath to cover with. We know practically nil about either its mechanisms or its development. In fact. many distinguished scientists and philosophers believe that consciousness has no evolutionary history. because they think that human existences are the lone animals that have it.
Although most scientists will acknowledge in private that our close carnal relations likely have mental lives something like ours ( because. after all. they have organic structures and encephalons and behaviour that resemble ours ) . a batch of scientists are loath to state so obviously and publically ; and those who do can number on being accused of mawkishness and theanthropism. If you have a Canis familiaris. you have likely had the experience of seeing your Canis familiaris hunt out a favourite plaything and convey it to you in hopes of acquiring you to play with him. It’s hard even to depict these familiar experiences without stating things like. “The Canis familiaris was seeking to ?nd his ball. ” or “The Canis familiaris wanted me to play with him. ”
But scientists aren’t supposed to state things like that. at least when we have our lab coats on. If we discuss such things at all. we prefer to make so in some manner that doesn’t affect imputing purposes or any other mental provinces to the Canis familiaris. There are at least two ways we can make this. First. we can utilize gawky behavioural periphrasiss for mental linguistic communication. Alternatively of stating. “The Canis familiaris looked for his ball until he found it. ” we can state something like. “The Canis familiaris exhibited repeated turns of fact-finding behaviour. which ceased after he contacted the ball. ”
This somehow manages to propose that the Canis familiaris wasn’t believing about the ball while he was looking for it. and that he didn’t perceive anything when he got it in his oral cavity. Second. if we ?nd these periphrasiss silly and boring. we can follow some discrepancy of what is sometimes called “logical behaviourism. ” in which the mental words are still used but they are rede?ned in footings of the chances of certain behaviours. In this position. a dog’s purposes and desires and beliefs bend out. when decently understood. non to be something inside the Canis familiaris. but theoretical concepts pinned on the Canis familiaris by a human perceiver. Therefore. the human perceiver can cognize whether the Canis familiaris has purposes and desires and beliefs. but the Canis familiaris can’t.