The Ethics Of Animal Cognition Essay
Thoughts on Thought
After examining the several angles to the issue of animal cognition, it is my conclusion that non-human animals are in fact capable of thought. Although humans certainly display a superior cognitive ability, I believe the cognition of animals is not of an entirely different type, and that whatever difference remains is simply one of degree. While Davidson and Descartes tend to argue that language is a necessary component for rational creatures, Hobbes and Searle give non-human creatures more “cognitive credit,” citing their ability perceive, and to have and correct beliefs, as proof of being conscious, thinking, beings. Pointing to the immense biological similarities between humans and animals, the latter authors argue that our shared organs must make us more similar creatures then Davidson and Descartes propose. Additionally, animals’ ability to recognize patterns, and display emotion gives further reason to believe in their similar capabilities. For these reasons, Hobbes and Searle make a more convincing case, granting animals at least some aspect of mentality, however limited it may be.
Let us begin with Hobbes and his argument, which starts with the idea of sense. For Hobbes, “each single thought is a representation or appearance of some quality or feature of a body outside us” (Leviathan, 3). Thus, a thought is brought about by sensing something regarding an outside body. Hobbes argues that no thought can be…