Insects and the problem of simple minds: Are bees natural zombies?

Journal of Philosophy 105 (8): 389-415 (2008)
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Abstract

This paper explores the idea that many “simple minded” invertebrates are “natural zombies” in that they utilize their senses in intelligent ways, but without phenomenal awareness. The discussion considers how “first-order” representationalist theories of consciousness meet the explanatory challenge posed by blindsight. It would be an advantage of first-order representationalism, over higher-order versions, if it does not rule out consciousness in most non-human animals. However, it is argued that a first-order representationalism which adequately accounts for blindsight also implies that most non-mammals are not conscious. The example of the honey bee is used to illuminate these claims. Although there is some reason to think that bees have simple beliefs and desires, nevertheless, their visually-mediated cognizing is comparable to that of an animal with blindsight. There is also reason to think that the study of blindsight can also help determine how consciousness is distributed in the animal world.

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Sean Allen-Hermanson
Florida International University

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