i’ll be a monkey’s uncle

To a teacher of languages there comes a time when the world is but a place of many words and man appears a mere talking animal not much more wonderful than a parrot.

– Joseph Conrad


One of the reasons it is unclear whether or not animals may properly be said to be conscious is that the term has no universal definition as applied to humans. Is consciousness equivalent to awareness? To attention? Cognition? Perception? Memory? Imagination? All of these? Much more? To attempt to apply a vaguely-defined term to non-human species merely compounds the confusion and makes it a virtual certainty that any attempt to answer such a question is a waste of time. The topic has become virtually taboo in serious science, with most investigators polarised into opposing camps of “definitely so” and “no way!” Believers in one group vehemently reject the results of the other, and no one seems able to mount a convincing case; but that is not to say that scientists (and others) have stopped making the effort. Few topics today are as divisive as the role non-human animals play in ideas about religion, society, law, morals, research and even in the home.


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