Strong Neurophilosophy and the Matter of Bat Consciousness: A Case Study
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In “What is it like to be boring and myopic?” Kathleen Akins offers an interesting, empirically driven, argument for thinking that there is nothing that it is like to be a bat. She suggests that bats are “boring” in the sense that they are governed by behavioral scripts and simple, non-representational, control loops, and are best characterized as biological automatons. Her approach has been well received by philosophers sympathetic to empirically informed philosophy of mind. But, despite its influence, her work has not met with any critical appraisal. It is argued that a reconsideration of the empirical results shows that bats are not boring automatons, driven by short input–output loops, instincts, and reflexes. Grounds are provided for thinking that bats satisfy a range of philosophically and scientifically interesting elaborations of the general idea that consciousness is best understood in terms of representational functions. A more complete examination of bat sensory capabilities suggests there is something that it is like after all. The discussion of bats is also used to develop an objection to strongly neurophilosophical approaches to animal consciousness.
KeywordsRepresentational Content Phenomenal Concept Phenomenal Consciousness Phenomenal Experience Negative Constraint
I am in debt to Chris Stephens for his comments and criticism, as well as Brock Fenton and Johan Eklöf for lending their expertise and helping me cope with the empirical literature. I also thank the anonymous referees for their insightful feedback.
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