How can we know whether fish feel pain? Epistemology of the scientific study of fish sentience

Dissertation, (2021)
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Abstract

I start by defining sentience and giving an analysis of the epistemological problems that plague its scientific study; this consists mainly in justifying that the attribution of sentience is underdetermined by the data. Second I show that as a result of this situation of underdetermination, most of the types of arguments used to infer sentience from the data are inconclusive and lead to a stalemate. Third, I argue that the stalemates arise from a foundationalist epistemology which needlessly leads to skeptical conclusions; as an alternative, I propose to adopt a coherentist framework and defend a process of ‘epistemic iteration’ (Chang 2004) within that framework, which I argue gives us a way out of the underdetermination.

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