Fish and microchips: on fish pain and multiple realization

Philosophical Studies 176 (9):2411-2428 (2019)
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Abstract

Opponents to consciousness in fish argue that fish do not feel pain because they do not have a neocortex, which is a necessary condition for feeling pain. A common counter-argument appeals to the multiple realizability of pain: while a neocortex might be necessary for feeling pain in humans, pain might be realized differently in fish. This paper argues, first, that it is impossible to find a criterion allowing us to demarcate between plausible and implausible cases of multiple realization of pain without running into a circular argument. Second, opponents to consciousness in fish cannot be provided with reasons to believe in the multiple realizability of pain. I conclude that the debate on the existence of pain in fish is impossible to settle by relying on the multiple realization argument.

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Matthias Michel
New York University

Citations of this work

The Measurement Problem of Consciousness.Heather Browning & Walter Veit - 2020 - Philosophical Topics 48 (1):85-108.
Animal Sentience.Heather Browning & Jonathan Birch - 2022 - Philosophy Compass 17 (5):e12822.
Dimensions of Animal Consciousness.Jonathan Birch, Alexandra K. Schnell & Nicola S. Clayton - 2020 - Trends in Cognitive Sciences 24 (10):789-801.
Materialism and the Moral Status of Animals.Jonathan Birch - 2022 - Philosophical Quarterly 72 (4):795-815.

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References found in this work

What is it like to be a bat?Thomas Nagel - 1974 - Philosophical Review 83 (October):435-50.
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Troubles with functionalism.Ned Block - 1978 - Minnesota Studies in the Philosophy of Science 9:261-325.
Special sciences.Jerry A. Fodor - 1974 - Synthese 28 (2):97-115.

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