General Question

flo's avatar

Which animals do people debate whether or not they are sentient?

Asked by flo (10554points) December 23rd, 2016

1) There are the ones mentioned a lot as sentient, (which don’t seem to be debated about) but what do people debate about their non sentient-ness?

2)How do they know the ones they consider not sentient don’t suffer pain?

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20 Answers

Coloma's avatar

I’d say most viruses and bacteria are not considered sentient but how do we know if they feel pain or discomfort? Some say fish do not feel pain but I’m pretty sure suffocating to death flopping around the deck of a boat or on the shore of a lake, rover or ocaen is not a pleasant experience for the poor fish.

JLeslie's avatar

I’m going to go with anything with a brain has the basic will to survive. Even mosquitoes try to fly away when we come after them.

I’m with @Coloma about fish. I think they are terrorized. They fight to get away and die a relatively slow dearth. I’m pretty sure they know they are dying. I eat fish, but I’m conflicted about it.

janbb's avatar

I don’t think you need to have sentience to feel pain; I think you need to be sentient to anticipate pain.

cinnamonk's avatar


Coloma's avatar

Trump supporters may be sentient but they certainly aren’t the most conscious organisms. lol

abcbill's avatar

Moving outside the issue of whether all Trump supporters are afflicted with both Dunning-Kruger Syndrome AND motivated reasoning disorder, which we should not debate here…

There is strong evidence that most cetaceans are intelligent at a very high level…across many of the touch points that we consider key for being sentient including pain. I’ve seen some studies that indicate the cetans might will be able to plan ahead based on probability and learned experience.

Also have seen some articles regarding the highly developed social structures of elephants, specifically the African plains elephants. Evidence of historical thinking, caring for sick and elderly and some sense of grieving is indicated. Also, teaching behaviors beyond just predation is nearly at intuitional levels.

As has been pointed out, below the Chordata level, there is pain sensing and pain avoidance…so I am not so sure that is evocative of sentiency or a primitive fight/flight reaction.

One final thought…who should define sentiency…humans or the beings we believe to be sentient? Speculating for a moment—Cetans are most certainly operating at a much higher level than most other species. Given that homo sapiens sapiens has basically brought a number cetan species to the verge of extinction, wonder if they would rank US much above primitive tool users incapable of peaceful co-existence with other intelligent beings.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

I’m pretty sure most animals are, anyone who has ever had a dog knows this.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Would you compare a dog withan amoeba @ARE_you_kidding_me?

Dutchess_III's avatar

I guess I was curious as to why you used a dog for your standard of sentient animals.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

We are all familiar with their sentience, it opens the door past humans for those who think we are special

Dutchess_III's avatar

Yes, we are all familiar with a dogs sentience, or a cat or a horse, but those are the more highly evolved animals. You can’t use them as a standard for all animals, like Mayflies and ticks.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

I was not comparing to all animals.

Dutchess_III's avatar

OK. It seemed like you were.

flo's avatar

Why would anyone be sure that magflies and ticks etc, can’t feel or anticipate pain?

flo's avatar


ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

Sentience and sensing pain are two different things.

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