Subjective Experience in Explanations of Animal PTSD Behavior

Philosophical Topics 48 (1):155-175 (2020)
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Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a mental health condition in which the experience of a traumatic event causes a series of psychiatric and behavioral symptoms such as hypervigilance, insomnia, irritability, aggression, constricted affect, and self-destructive behavior. This paper investigates two case studies to argue that the experience of PTSD is not restricted to humans alone; we have good epistemic reason to hold that some animals can experience genuine PTSD, given our current and best clinical understanding of the disorder in humans. I will use this evidence to argue for two claims. First, because the causal structure of PTSD plausibly requires reference to a traumatic conscious experience in order to explain subsequent behaviors, the fact that animals can have PTSD provides new evidence for animal consciousness. Second, the discovery of PTSD in animals puts pressure on accounts which hold that animal behavior can be fully explained without reference to subjective experience.

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Kate Nicole Hoffman
University of Pennsylvania


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