Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Ledoux and Animal Consciousness

Joseph LeDoux offers this account of animal consciousness: "Other animals may be consciously aware, in some sense, of events going on in their world. They may have domain-specific consciousness, or in the case of nonhuman primates, domain-independent nonverbal consciousness, but lacking language and its cognitive manifestations, they are unlikely to be able to represent complex, abstract concepts (like 'me' or 'mine' or 'ours'), to relate external events to these abstractions, and to use these representations to guide decision-making and control behavior" (Synaptic Self, 197).

So Ledoux possibly recognizes the existence of "complex, abstract concepts" and the symbolic manipulation of such abstractions, but he associates them with the human capacity for language which is viewed as a natural (biological) phenomenon rooted in the human brain and its neural activities. In other words, we are equipped with a huge neocortex that makes us lingually capacious: that's why humans can think abstractly. To quote the late Sir Francis Crick: "You're nothing but a pack of neurons."

While I don't agree with LeDoux calling us "animals," I like other aspects of his "synaptic self" approach.

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