by Winfried Nöth
Consciousness was programmatically denied to nonhuman beings by René Descartes, when he declared that only humans, beings endowed with a soul, could qualify as conscious beings. The restriction of consciousness to self-consciousness has an equally long tradition. It culminated perhaps in Julian Jaynes’s theory of The Origins of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind(1974) in which the author argues that consciousness, in the sense of self-reflexive awareness of a self in her or his thoughts and actions, is a relatively recent feature of human cognition.
In modern consciousness studies, the extension of the concept of consciousness in these two directions has only begun recently. Unaware of Peirce’s theory of consciousness, Michael Tye (2017), a renowned scholar in contemporary consciousness studies, proposes such extensions. The extension of the concept from humans to nonhuman animals, such as bees and crabs, is suggested and argued in the title of Tye’s new book, which is, Tense Bees and Shell-Shocked Crabs: Are Animals Conscious? The extension to awareness and perception in general is expressed in Tye’s following definition of consciousness: “I suggest that the connection [between consciousness and experience] is a very simple one: a being is conscious just in case it undergoes experience. So the problem of animal experiences is one and the same as the problem of consciousness” (2017: xv). Continuar lendo