Irina Mikhalevich and Russell Powell, Minds without spines: Evolutionarily inclusive animal ethics


We attribute consciousness to other humans because their anatomy and behavior resembles our own and their verbal descriptions of subjective experiences correspond to ours. Nonhuman mammals have somewhat humanlike behavior and anatomy, but without the verbal descriptions. Their sentience is therefore open to Cartesian doubt. Robot "minds" lack humanlike behavior and anatomy, and so their sentience is generally discounted no matter what sentences they generate. Invertebrates lack both neurological similarity and language. Although it may be safest in making moral judgments to assume that some invertebrates are sentient, cogent reasons for thinking so must await an objective causal explanation for subjective experience.

Author Biography

Matt Cartmill is a biological anthropologist. He has written extensively on human and mammalian evolution, comparative anatomy, theory of systematics, quadrupedal locomotion, animal consciousness, the moral standing of animals, and the history and philosophy of science. Website