Whether animals fare well or not is of ethical significance. For this reason, their capacity for wellbeing, i.e., how good or bad the lives of animals can go, is of ethical significance as well. I assume that the wellbeing of most animals is mainly determined by their phenomenally conscious experiences. If consciousness differences between species determine wellbeing differences, then the kinds of conscious experience species are capable of may entail that some species systematically (can) have higher or lower wellbeing than others. Then, I argue that not all phenomenally conscious states contribute to wellbeing equally. I discuss which features of consciousness are constituents of wellbeing and which can, for ethical purposes, be ignored. In addition, I scrutinize how much different features of experience contribute to wellbeing and how their presence can be detected empirically. This way, this paper exemplifies a novel consciousness-centered approach for the empirical investigation of animal wellbeing. The strengths and weaknesses of this approach are analyzed. While subsequent research is needed to refine the framework, I already note some preliminary implications for animal ethics.
Appleby, M. C., & Sandøe, P. (2002). Philosophical Debate on the Nature of Well-Being: Implications for Animal Welfare. Animal Welfare, 11(3), 283–294. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0962728600024866
Beauchamp, T. (2019). The Principle of Beneficence in Applied Ethics. In E. N. Zalta (Ed.), The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2019.). Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University. https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/spr2019/entries/principle-beneficence/. Accessed 10 March 2023
Birch, J. (2017). Animal sentience and the precautionary principle. Animal Sentience, 2(16). https://doi.org/10.51291/2377-7478.1200
Birch, J. (2022a). Should animal welfare be defined in terms of consciousness? Philosophy of Science, 1–11. https://doi.org/10.1017/psa.2022.59
Birch, J. (2022b). Materialism and the Moral Status of Animals. The Philosophical Quarterly. https://doi.org/10.1093/pq/pqab072
Birch, J., Schnell, A. K., & Clayton, N. S. (2020). Dimensions of Animal Consciousness. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 24(10), 789–801. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tics.2020.07.007
Bramble, B. (2016). A New Defense of Hedonism about Well-Being. Ergo, an Open Access Journal of Philosophy, 3. https://doi.org/10.3998/ergo.12405314.0003.004
Browning, H. (2020). If I could talk to the animals: Measuring subjective animal welfare.
Browning, H. (2022). Assessing measures of animal welfare. Biology & Philosophy, 37(4), 36. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10539-022-09862-1
Browning, H. (2023). Welfare comparisons within and across species. Philosophical Studies. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11098-022-01907-1
Bruckner, D. W. (2010). Subjective Well-Being and Desire Satisfaction. Philosophical Papers, 39(1), 1–28. https://doi.org/10.1080/05568641003669409
Carls-Diamante, S. (2017). The octopus and the unity of consciousness. Biology & Philosophy, 32(6), 1269–1287. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10539-017-9604-0
Chalmers, D. J. (2022). Reality+: Virtual Worlds and the Problems of Philosophy. New York: W. W. Norton.
Clark, R. E., & Squire, L. R. (1998). Classical Conditioning and Brain Systems: The Role of Awareness. Science, 280(5360), 77–81. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.280.5360.77
Clayton, N. S., & Dickinson, A. (1998). Episodic-like memory during cache recovery by scrub jays. Nature, 395(6699), 272–274. https://doi.org/10.1038/26216
Crisp, R. (2006). Hedonism Reconsidered. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 73(3), 619–645. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1933-1592.2006.tb00551.x
Crisp, R. (2021). Well-Being. In E. N. Zalta (Ed.), The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2021.). Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University. https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2021/entries/well-being/. Accessed 28 October 2021
Crook, R. J. (2021). Behavioral and neurophysiological evidence suggests affective pain experience in octopus. iScience, 24(3). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.isci.2021.102229
Crump, A., Browning, H., Schnell, A., Burn, C., & Birch, J. (2022). Sentience in decapod crustaceans: A general framework and review of the evidence. Animal Sentience, 7(32). https://doi.org/10.51291/2377-7478.1691
Cutter, B. (2017). The Metaphysical Implications of the Moral Significance of Consciousness. Philosophical Perspectives, 31(1), 103–130. https://doi.org/10.1111/phpe.12092
Damasio, A. (1999). The feeling of what happens: Body and emotion in the making of consciousness. Harcourt College Publishers.
Dawkins, M. S. (2017). Animal welfare with and without consciousness. Journal of Zoology, 301(1), 1–10. https://doi.org/10.1111/jzo.12434
Dawkins, M. S. (2021). The Science of Animal Welfare: Understanding What Animals Want (1st ed.). Oxford University Press. https://doi.org/10.1093/oso/9780198848981.001.0001
de Vere, A. J., & Kuczaj, S. A. (2016). Where are we in the study of animal emotions?: Where are we in the study of animal emotions? Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Cognitive Science, 7(5), 354–362. https://doi.org/10.1002/wcs.1399
Dennett, D. C. (1995). Animal Consciousness: What Matters and Why? Social Research: An International Quarterly, 62, 691–710.
Droege, P., Weiss, D. J., Schwob, N., & Braithwaite, V. (2021). Trace conditioning as a test for animal consciousness: a new approach. Animal Cognition, 24(6), 1299–1304. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10071-021-01522-3
Duncan, I. J. H., & Fraser, D. (1997). Understanding animal welfare. In Michael C. Appleby & B. O. Hughes (Eds.), Animal welfare (pp. 19–32). New York: CAB International.
Duncan, M. (2019). The Self Shows Up in Experience. Review of Philosophy and Psychology, 10(2), 299–318. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13164-017-0355-2
Dung, L. (2022a). Does illusionism imply skepticism of animal consciousness? Synthese, 200(3), 238. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11229-022-03710-1
Dung, L. (2022b). Why the Epistemic Objection Against Using Sentience as Criterion of Moral Status is Flawed. Science and Engineering Ethics, 28(6), 51. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11948-022-00408-y
Dung, L. (2022c). Assessing tests of animal consciousness. Consciousness and Cognition, 105, 103410. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.concog.2022.103410
Dung, L. (Forthcoming). Preserving the normative significance of sentience. Journal of Consciousness Studies.
Dung, L., & Newen, A. (2023). Profiles of animal consciousness: A species-sensitive, two-tier account to quality and distribution. Cognition, 235, 105409. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cognition.2023.105409
Fischer, B. (2022). Theories of Welfare and Welfare Range Estimates. EA Forum. https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/WfeWN2X4k8w8nTeaS/theories-of-welfare-and-welfare-range-estimates. Accessed 10 March 2023
Fletcher, G. (2013). A Fresh Start for the Objective-List Theory of Well-Being. Utilitas, 25(2), 206–220. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0953820812000453
Fletcher, G. (Ed.). (2015). The Routledge Handbook Of Philosophy Of Well-Being. New York: Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315682266
Gaffney, L. P., Lavery, J. M., Schiestl, M., Trevarthen, A., Schukraft, J., Miller, R., et al. (2023). A theoretical approach to improving interspecies welfare comparisons. Frontiers in Animal Science, 3. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fanim.2022.1062458. Accessed 10 March 2023
Gallagher, S. (2010). Defining consciousness: The importance of non-reflective self-awareness. Pragmatics & Cognition, 18(3), 561–569. https://doi.org/10.1075/pc.18.3.04gal
Galpayage Dona, H. S., Solvi, C., Kowalewska, A., Mäkelä, K., MaBouDi, H., & Chittka, L. (2022). Do bumble bees play? Animal Behaviour, 194, 239–251. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.anbehav.2022.08.013
Gibbons, M., Crump, A., Barrett, M., Sarlak, S., Birch, J., & Chittka, L. (2022). Can insects feel pain? A review of the neural and behavioural evidence. In Advances in Insect Physiology. Academic Press. https://doi.org/10.1016/bs.aiip.2022.10.001
Godfrey-Smith, P. (2020). Metazoa: Animal minds and the birth of consciousness. William Collins.
Gottlieb, J. (2022). Octopuses (Probably) Don’t Have Nine Minds. EA Forum. https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/WBWXLZTF5FPzmK8nh/octopuses-probably-don-t-have-nine-minds. Accessed 10 March 2023
Grahek, N. (2001). Feeling pain and being in pain (2nd ed.). MIT Press.
Green, T. C., & Mellor, D. J. (2011). Extending ideas about animal welfare assessment to include “quality of life” and related concepts. New Zealand Veterinary Journal, 59(6), 263–271. https://doi.org/10.1080/00480169.2011.610283
Griffin, J. (1988). Well-Being: Its Meaning, Measurement and Moral Importance (1st ed.). Oxford University PressOxford. https://doi.org/10.1093/0198248431.001.0001
Heathwood, C. (2016). Desire-Fulfillment Theory. In G. Fletcher (Ed.), The Routledge Handbook of the Philosophy of Well-Being (pp. 135–147). New York: Routledge.
Heathwood, C. (2019). Which Desires Are Relevant to Well-Being? Noûs, 53(3), 664–688. https://doi.org/10.1111/nous.12232
Hoffman, K. N. (2020). Subjective Experience in Explanations of Animal PTSD Behavior. Philosophical Topics, 48(1), 155–175. https://doi.org/10.5840/philtopics20204818
Hurley, S., L. (1998). Consciousness in action. Harvard University Press.
Inger, R., Bennie, J., Davies, T. W., & Gaston, K. J. (2014). Potential Biological and Ecological Effects of Flickering Artificial Light. PLoS ONE, 9(5), e98631. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0098631
Kagan, S. (2019). How to Count Animals, more or less (1st ed.). Oxford University Press. https://doi.org/10.1093/oso/9780198829676.001.0001
Kammerer, F. (2019). The Normative Challenge for Illusionist Views of Consciousness. Ergo, an Open Access Journal of Philosophy, 6. https://doi.org/10.3998/ergo.12405314.0006.032
Kammerer, F. (2022). Ethics Without Sentience. Facing Up to the Probable Insignificance of Phenomenal Consciousness. Journal of Consciousness Studies.
Kremer, L., Klein Holkenborg, S. E. J., Reimert, I., Bolhuis, J. E., & Webb, L. E. (2020). The nuts and bolts of animal emotion. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 113, 273–286. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neubiorev.2020.01.028
Kriegel, U. (2019). The Value of Consciousness. Analysis, 79(3), 503–520. https://doi.org/10.1093/analys/anz045
Lagisz, M., Zidar, J., Nakagawa, S., Neville, V., Sorato, E., Paul, E. S., et al. (2020). Optimism, pessimism and judgement bias in animals: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 118, 3–17. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neubiorev.2020.07.012
Lambert, H., Elwin, A., & D’Cruze, N. (2021). Wouldn’t hurt a fly? A review of insect cognition and sentience in relation to their use as food and feed. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 243, 105432. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.applanim.2021.105432
Lee, K. H., Lee, D. W., & Kang, B. C. (2020). The ‘R’ principles in laboratory animal experiments. Laboratory Animal Research, 36(1), 45. https://doi.org/10.1186/s42826-020-00078-6
Lin, E. (2014). Pluralism about Well-Being. Philosophical Perspectives, 28(1), 127–154. https://doi.org/10.1111/phpe.12038
Mandal, J., & Parija, S. C. (2013). Ethics of involving animals in research. Tropical Parasitology, 3(1), 4–6. https://doi.org/10.4103/2229-5070.113884
Mason, G. J., & Lavery, J. M. (2022). What Is It Like to Be a Bass? Red Herrings, Fish Pain and the Study of Animal Sentience. Frontiers in Veterinary Science, 9. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fvets.2022.788289. Accessed 5 July 2022
May, A. (2005). Cluster headache: pathogenesis, diagnosis, and management. The Lancet, 366(9488), 843–855. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(05)67217-0
Mazor, M., Brown, S., Ciaunica, A., Demertzi, A., Fahrenfort, J., Faivre, N., et al. (2022). The Scientific Study of Consciousness Cannot and Should Not Be Morally Neutral. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 174569162211102. https://doi.org/10.1177/17456916221110222
Mee, J., & Boyle, L. (2020). Assessing whether dairy cow welfare is “better” in pasture-based than in confinement-based management systems. New Zealand Veterinary Journal, 68(3), 168–177. https://doi.org/10.1080/00480169.2020.1721034
Mendl, M., Burman, O. H. P., & Paul, E. S. (2010). An integrative and functional framework for the study of animal emotion and mood. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 277(1696), 2895–2904. https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2010.0303
Metzinger, T. (2021). Artificial Suffering: An Argument for a Global Moratorium on Synthetic Phenomenology. Journal of Artificial Intelligence and Consciousness, 08(01), 43–66. https://doi.org/10.1142/S270507852150003X
Miller, R., Schiestl, M., Trevarthen, A., Gaffney, L., Lavery, J. M., Fischer, B., & Schnell, A. (2022). From Pigs to Silkworms: Cognition and Welfare across 10 Farmed Taxa (preprint). Animal Behavior and Cognition. https://doi.org/10.1101/2022.11.11.516141
Millsopp, S., & Laming, P. (2008). Trade-offs between feeding and shock avoidance in goldfish (Carassius auratus). Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 113(1–3), 247–254. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.applanim.2007.11.004
Moore, A. (2019). Hedonism. In E. N. Zalta (Ed.), The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2019.). Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University. https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2019/entries/hedonism/. Accessed 10 March 2023
Muehlhauser, L. (2017). Report on Consciousness and Moral Patienthood. Open Philanthropy. https://www.openphilanthropy.org/2017-report-consciousness-and-moral-patienthood. Accessed 7 March 2022
Nagel, T. (1974). What is It Like to Be a Bat? Philosophical Review, 83(4), 435–50. https://doi.org/10.2307/2183914
Nieder, A., Wagener, L., & Rinnert, P. (2020). A neural correlate of sensory consciousness in a corvid bird. Science, 369(6511), 1626–1629. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.abb1447
Pandit, P. (2021). Toward a More Credible Principle of Beneficence. Journal of Indian Council of Philosophical Research, 38(3), 407–422. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40961-021-00258-2
Panksepp, J. (2010). Affective consciousness in animals: perspectives on dimensional and primary process emotion approaches. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 277(1696), 2905–2907. https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2010.1017
Park, R. M., Foster, M., & Daigle, C. L. (2020). A Scoping Review: The Impact of Housing Systems and Environmental Features on Beef Cattle Welfare. Animals, 10(4), 565. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10040565
Rice, C. M. (2013). Defending the Objective List Theory of Well-Being. Ratio, 26(2), 196–211. https://doi.org/10.1111/rati.12007
Ritchie, H. (2020). The carbon footprint of foods: Are differences explained by the impacts of methane? https://ourworldindata.org/carbon-footprint-food-methane. Accessed 9 September 2022
Robbins, J., Franks, B., & Keyserlingk, M. A. G. von. (2018). ‘More than a feeling’: An empirical investigation of hedonistic accounts of animal welfare. PLOS ONE, 13(3), e0193864. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0193864
Schukraft, J. (2020a). Comparisons of capacity for welfare and moral status across species. Rethink Priorities. https://rethinkpriorities.org/publications/comparisons-of-capacity-for-welfare-and-moral-status-across-species. Accessed 30 September 2022
Schukraft, J. (2020b). Differences in the intensity of valenced experience across species. Rethink Priorities. https://rethinkpriorities.org/publications/differences-in-the-intensity-of-valenced-experience-across-species
Schukraft, J. (2020c). Does critical flicker-fusion frequency track the subjective experience of time? Rethink Priorities. https://rethinkpriorities.org/publications/does-critical-flicker-fusion-frequency-track-the-subjective-experience-of-time. Accessed 17 September 2022
Schukraft, J. (2020d). The subjective experience of time: Welfare implications. Rethink Priorities. https://rethinkpriorities.org/publications/the-subjective-experience-of-time-welfare-implications. Accessed 17 September 2022
Sebo, J., & Schukraft, J. (2021). Don’t farm bugs. Aeon. https://aeon.co/essays/on-the-torment-of-insect-minds-and-our-moral-duty-not-to-farm-them. Accessed 9 August 2022
Van Gulick, R. (2022). Consciousness. In E. N. Zalta & U. Nodelman (Eds.), The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2022.). Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University. https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2022/entries/consciousness/. Accessed 10 March 2023
Veit, W., & Browning, H. (2020). Perspectival pluralism for animal welfare. European Journal for Philosophy of Science, 11(1), 9. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13194-020-00322-9
Višak, T. (2022). Capacity for Welfare across Species. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press.
Webb, C. E., Woodford, P., & Huchard, E. (2020). The Study That Made Rats Jump for Joy, and Then Killed Them. BioEssays, 42(6), 2000030. https://doi.org/10.1002/bies.202000030
Wilcox, M. G. (2021). The Intrinsic Value of Liberty for Non-Human Animals. Journal of Value Inquiry, 55(4), 685–703. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10790-020-09762-1
Zahavi, D. (2014). Self and other: Exploring subjectivity, empathy, and shame. Oxford University Press.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Copyright (c) 2023 Leonard Dung