Consciousness: The Lack of Consensus About Feelings of Being
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FROM Marc Bekoff, Psychology Today / Animal Emotions
July 2021

There is still much to ponder and learn and I'm glad that people haven't given up on trying to figure out what makes you, you, among human and nonhuman animals.

sentient feelings

I recently read an informative update about how the human brain, a relatively small squishy tofu-like organ, makes sense of the most baffling problem in the science of the mind—consciousness. Here are some wide-ranging questions and a summary of different views about them.

How can we define consciousness?

Researchers generally agree that consciousness incorporates all kinds of subjective experiences. These include feeling joy, sadness, and pain, recognizing friend and foe, and knowing that you are you. However, experts disagree on general and specific details, often while considering the same data. While some believe that humans don't have the cognitive capacities to solve what consciousness expert Columbia University's professor David Chalmers calls the "hard problem of consciousness"—how to explain why and how we have subjective experiences at all—others disagree.

The "easy problem" is to explain the brain processes responsible for consciousness, and many people think this is solvable. While there are those who believe that we can't really learn about how brains generate consciousness and eventually people will stop trying to figure it all out, others argue that as we learn more about the easy stuff, we'll be better able to deal with the hard stuff.

What about consciousness in other animals?

Different behavior patterns indicate consciousness. Most researchers and others agree that a wide variety of nonhumans behave in ways that suggest they have inner lives. Many also want to know how nonhumans' inner lives and subjective experiences differ from our own.



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