Animal Sentience

Philosophy Compass 17 (5):e12822 (2022)
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‘Sentience’ sometimes refers to the capacity for any type of subjective experience, and sometimes to the capacity to have subjective experiences with a positive or negative valence, such as pain or pleasure. We review recent controversies regarding sentience in fish and invertebrates and consider the deep methodological challenge posed by these cases. We then present two ways of responding to the challenge. In a policy-making context, precautionary thinking can help us treat animals appropriately despite continuing uncertainty about their sentience. In a scientific context, we can draw inspiration from the science of human consciousness to disentangle conscious and unconscious perception (especially vision) in animals. Developing better ways to disentangle conscious and unconscious affect is a key priority for future research.

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Author Profiles

Heather Browning
University of Southampton
Jonathan Birch
London School of Economics

Citations of this work

Complexity and the Evolution of Consciousness.Walter Veit - 2023 - Biological Theory 18 (3):175-190.
The sentience shift in animal research.Heather Browning & Walter Veit - 2022 - The New Bioethics 28 (4):299-314.
Towards a Comparative Study of Animal Consciousness.Walter Veit - 2022 - Biological Theory 17 (4):292-303.
Preserving the Normative Significance of Sentience.Leonard Dung - 2024 - Journal of Consciousness Studies 31 (1):8-30.

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Practical Ethics.Peter Singer - 1979 - New York: Cambridge University Press. Edited by Susan J. Armstrong & Richard George Botzler.
Science, Policy, and the Value-Free Ideal.Heather Douglas - 2009 - University of Pittsburgh Press.
An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation.Jeremy Bentham - 1780 - New York: Dover Publications. Edited by J. H. Burns & H. L. A. Hart.

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