Who Has Subjectivity?

Michael Lyvers, Bond University

Document Type Article



COMMENTARY ON: Carruthers, P. (1998). Natural theories of consciousness. European Journal of Philosophy, 6(2), 203-222. (http://psyche.cs.monash.edu.au/v4/psyche-4-03-carruthers.html)

Carruthers' case against animal consciousness employs deeply flawed reasoning and is contradicted by both empirical and introspective evidence. Although in principle we cannot objectively establish for certain that anyone -- human or otherwise -- is phenomenally conscious, results of animal research on consciousness-changing drugs are uninterpretable unless one assumes that non-human animals have discriminable subjective states. Carruthers tries to argue that higher-order thoughts are the basis of subjective experiences, but the former are derived from the latter, not the other way around. The position that only humans are conscious is reminiscent of other anthropocentric errors including outmoded notions of an Earth-centered universe created solely for humans.