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Old 01-23-2012, 11:37 PM
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Default Re: Does your dog or cat have conscious thought?

Originally Posted by Dr_Watso View Post
You'll have to clarify a bit, that doesn't make sense to me. How can a thinking social animal not be aware of it's own existence?

This is a little weird. What makes you think a dog doesn't know what itself is doing at any given time? Playing is a perfect example because it serves very little genetic, food drive, or evolutionary function. They do it precisely because like us, they have complex brains, a sense of self, and get bored.

If that were the case and the brain controlled the animal instead of the other way around, how could each animal be so unique in it's personality, taste in food, temperament, etc. I really am curious to understand why you insist they are so simple. It seems extremely obvious to me that they are at core really not that simple, each is entirely unique. Of course, the species shares it's genetic goals. Survival, sex, and status. Then again, at core, that's exactly what humans are after as a species as well. What makes us different from one another is our complex brains and personalities that go with them.

Of course they do. Envy is a basic component of any social animal, especially a pack mentality driven animal. They literally understand where they are personally within the pack. They know which members have better standing and envy the benefits of that standing. Envy itself is a very complex emotion, and many times even humans don't realize how envious they're being... It's what our brains tell us to do. Covet a better situation.

Here's a study article with some interesting findings, including controls.

The tests performed showed rather clearly that the dogs outright knew when the other dog was getting a better reward for the same action, and it upset them visibly, even to the point where they made the decision to stop performing the act and changing behavior towards the other dog out of jealousy.

I'm still curious what evidence supports this theory. How would it benefit any complex brain animal to not understand what it's doing and what it's current goals are?
It is possible for an animal to not be self-aware. I don't know how to explain my position any further. I don't think dogs get bored; I think they have no other necessary survival tasks on their agenda (eating, sleeping, excreting), so they choose to be pleasured by playing. I think personality is based on DNA, which is different for every creature.

That experimentation is cool.

Animals don't need to know or understand what they're doing, they just do it.

Originally Posted by criz p. critter View Post
Plenty of people are making very good arguments on both sides in this thread. Like so many other big questions, ultimately I don't think any of us will ever know the definite answer.

I'm just making a very simple point that can be applied to this or any other question. NOTHING can be yes/no, either/or. Once you set up two poles to reference, and try to understand ANYTHING, you become aware of everything that lies between them. For example, take day and night: They're opposites, and at some point one turns into the other. But is it a sudden on/off switch between the two? No, there's a whole, slow transition from one to its opposite. Or take colors: Exactly where does blue turn into purple? Half way? Sounds logical, but different people see colors differently, and will place that mid point differently.

Or let's take something more difficult, like LIFE. That seems easy at first glance; you're either dead or alive, right? Nothing really between them, is there? But there is. And once you look past the simple on/off of it, you see there's a whole range of properties to life. A baby is fresh, brand-new. It's flexible, its skin glows, it has inexhaustible energy to cry until it's fed or comforted. But an old person is inflexible, dry, brittle, easily exhausted by the slightest thing. It's parts are failing and at some point will fail. But again, where exactly do you draw the line? Sure, you can say "well, the person is dead when their life processes stop." Yeah, but they've been in the process of stopping for a long time before they do stop completely. And going back to the baby, exactly at what point did it cross from no-life to life?

It might sound New Age-y and all that, but it's nonetheless true. The philosophical idea dates back thousands of years, but it's borne out by cutting-edge quantum theories.

So I'm not "wrong". I might be wrong. I might be right. I might be both at the same time. Who knows? Not me. All I know is that, every time I find an answer, it only creates another question.
I understand what you're saying, but I don't agree with it. The things you're referencing aren't comparable to self awareness. The spectrum of age, from young to old, can't be compared to the spectrum of self awareness, because there isn't one. Well, maybe there is, but I don't think so. It just doesn't make sense; you're telling me a being can be aware of itself and not be aware of itself at the same time?

Originally Posted by Duckenheimer View Post
They wouldn't be biologically capable of doing those incredible things regardless of self awareness. Unless they evolved dramatically in other areas. My entire point; which hasn't been dealt with or mentioned in your reply, is that their level of intelligence and their physical abilities would ever enable them to "conquer! Create things! Build things! " regardless of self awareness. Other evolutionary pressures must occur for a long time to get to that.

Several millenia ago we biologically had the same basic level of intelligence and physical abilities. This doesn't tackle my point in any way.

The huge difference was that factors were in place, including intelligence and opposable thumbs, to develop agcriculture. Self awareness may be critical in this as the sole turning point - but maybe not. I was self aware long before I was effective in other ways. Nowhere whatsoever does anything you say deal with or refute "hey, what if self awareness predated those other abilities?"

Sorry I just can't figure how this follows at all. I see the premise and the conclusion, but the connective tissue seems to be missing completely. Again, nowhere whatsoever does anything you say deal with or refute "hey, what if self awareness predated those other essential abilities?" which was the point, or indeed the other specifics in my post. If self awareness pre-dates those abilities, your assertion suddenly makes no sense whatsoever.

Humans are not the only ones who go above and beyond "what nature gives them", if that means toolmaking and trying to lead a more stimulating life. But we are further along the continuum in those areas by a mile, no doubt about that; from which it doesn't follow "well then they can't be aware of their own existence at all".

If it just means "technological post agricultural civlisation!" then we'\re just stuck with a bunch of non sequiturs to justify how this means humans are self aware and no other animals are.
You're right, they wouldn't have the physical or mental capacity to do certain things, with or without self awareness. But I mentioned that it took humans a long time to get to where they are as a contrast to dogs, which have been along for the ride the entire time (in any of several evolutionary states, just like us), and have not produced what we have produced. Okay, so, apart from self awareness, they still would have had biological limitations. However, I still think that if dogs had been self-aware all along they would have made more progress. Perhaps not progress like we have made, but... who knows?

Thanks for the brain food, guys! I'm runnin' out of counter arguments...
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