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Humanities LibreTexts

2.5: Discussion Questions

  • Page ID
    31048
    1. For many philosophical issues, a good place to start is to reflect on “common views” about the issues. Suppose you surveyed a range of people and asked them what the minds or mental lives of various species of animals are like, whether (any) animals are conscious, can feel, can think, can reason, have emotions and so on. What are some of the most common answers that would be given? What reasons would you often hear in favor of these answers? Are these reasons generally good reasons or not? Why?
    2. There are historical and contemporary doubts that any animals possess minds. Summarize these doubts. Explain whether these doubts are reasonable or not, in your view.
    3. What are animals’ minds like, according to most contemporary scientists and philosophers? What kind of mental states do (any) animals have, e.g., beliefs, desires, memory, reasoning, planning, expectations for the future, self-awareness, emotions, etc.? Summarize the research, focusing on different mental states for different species or kinds of animals, if appropriate.
    4. How would one know or reasonably believe some claim about the mental states of animals? Explain what kind of reasoning processes and evidence philosophers, scientists and “ordinary people” appeal to when they argue that animals have minds.
    5. What is it to “harm” someone? Can (any) animals be harmed? If so, which kinds of animals? How can they be harmed? Explain and defend your answers.
    6. Of course, always feel free to raise any other questions, observations, criticisms and any other responses to the Chapter’s readings and issues.
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