Humans gain their knowledge of the world by experiencing it through their senses - Consciousness Essay introduction. Animals also use their natural senses to survive and protect themselves. Humans have a far superior mental capacity that enables them to live better than or more comfortably than animals.
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On the other hand, that animals can survive independent of human intervention is a sign that they are, in their own sense, conscious of their environment. However, the differences in how humans and animals live show that though animals may also have a capacity for consciousness, it has not or cannot develop to the point of being equal to the consciousness humans have.
Awareness of one’s self, personal capabilities, and the world he or she is moving in is essential to be able to manage the many challenges the world offers. This awareness or knowledge about the outside world forms the consciousness. According Myers (2007), it is built from the experience of using our senses such as seeing and hearing. It is present in one’s feelings, thoughts, and memories about his or her environment (Van Wagner, 2009). Through the capacity for consciousness, humans are able to think conceptually and figuratively thereby being able to make decisions, solve problems, consider emotions, and use technology for their benefit.
While they are not making breakthrough discoveries, my experience has shown that animals also practice consciousness. Working in a veterinary hospital, I have a long-running and extensive experience dealing with animals. I have spent time feeding, training, and caring for injured animals. Thus, I feel strongly certain that animals are conscious of their surroundings and the events happening to them just as well as humans. I have seen how owners are capable of teaching their dogs tricks, how animals react to pain, and how pets going in for visits with the veterinarian go from shy and withdrawn to familiar and warm with their owners and the doctor. Animals are definitely capable of consciousness as seen in their show of feelings and memories.
Animals and humans’ consciousness have similarities but are of different extent. The dissimilarity is explained in Allen’s distinction of the two levels of consciousness. According to Allen (2006), consciousness can be delineated further as Phenomenal Consciousness (PC) and Self-consciousness (SC). Of the total conscious experience, PC is the subjective and experiential aspect while SC is the aspect referring to an organism’s capability to represent or reflect on its own mental state (Allen, 2006). PC refers to how organisms are conscious of the characteristics of its environment and are consistently able to react on it. In brief, organisms capable of PC are capable of thinking. SC is an organism’s consciousness of its own self. Compared to PC, SC is the capacity to think and reflect about what one is thinking about. Allen (2006) describes it as one’s “thought about thought.”
Humans clearly exhibit both levels of consciousness. They are capable of reacting to the situation their environment is handing them. Humans are also capable of self-reflection and of thinking of conceptual and metaphorical matters as seen in the pages of human philosophy and theology. Allen (2006) writes that animals are capable of PC and acting out towards their environment. However, some animals such as mammals and birds are more conscious than other animals such as insects, mollusks, and other invertebrates (Allen, 2006). On the other hands, animals exhibiting SC is another and still unheard of story. Animals, as determined by human knowledge and experience, are capable of simple problem solving, memory, and conditional learning (Think Quest, n.d.). However, there is not any study that reports that animals think about why they do what they do. Animals think and decide only about matters directly involved with their survival, but not of the intangible sentiments.
Thus, animals show capacity for consciousness, but it is one that is limited to pragmatic use only. Compared to humans, animals have a lower and more basic or primitive awareness of the world. Animals’ consciousness enables them to be aware of the world, but, as far as have been determined, they are not conscious of being aware of the world.
Allen, C. (2006, Nov. 15). Animal consciousness. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved March 3, 2009 from http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/consciousness-animal/
Myers, D. G. (2007). Psychology (8th ed.). New York: Worth Publishers.
Think Quest. (n.d.). Animals and memory. Retrieved March 3, 2009 from http://library.thinkquest.org/C0110291/basic/animals/index.php
Van Wagner, K. (2009). What is consciousness?. About.com. Retrieved March 3, 2009 from http://psychology.about.com/od/statesofconsciousness/f/consciousness.htm