A Case for Conservatism about Animal Consciousness

Journal of Consciousness Studies 27 (9-10):163-185 (2020)
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*Please email me for a copy of the paper if you are interested! Liberal theories of animal consciousness maintain that we should attribute consciousness widely across various species. Conservative theories of animal consciousness maintain that we should not attribute consciousness widely. This paper makes a case for a conservative theory of animal consciousness. The case depends on two defensive moves and one offensive move. The defensive moves indicate that the indistinguishable causal profiles of conscious and non-conscious mental states are not a problem for conservative theories and that intuitions about animal consciousness should not play a role in theory selection. Offensively, I argue that liberal theories of animal consciousness are less parsimonious than conservative theories. The upshot is that liberal theories of animal consciousness are not obviously rationally preferable to conservative theories.



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Samuel Murray
Providence College

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