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Debate:Sentience

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Information icon.svg This debate was created by Jakethedarwinist.


Proposition[edit]

I was interested in an old RW debate here [1] which got derailed by some bad arguments about starfish. Also our page about mind uploading, which described the brain as a biological machine, and this essay about the ethics of eating mussels and oysters [2]. I'm a vegetarian, primarily because I think that any rational moral system should be predominantly based in minimizing suffering, and after years I couldn't think of an argument which satisfied me that human pleasure is worth animal life in cases where we can survive without. However, it has occurred to me recently that my feelings aren't completely rational, as I would refrain from eating animals that I feel are almost certainly not sentient. I'm not personally considering moving up to pescatarian, but I'm trying to come up with a rational definition of sentience.

As a person in the animal sentience debate above noted, plants react to stimuli just as animals do, so the ability to react to stimuli does not imply sentience. Another poster later argued that the ability to feel pain does not imply sentience, as pain is a sensation, rather than an emotion. I think both of these are important to consider when trying to define sentience; while I don't think any plants have been shown to feel pain the way a starfish can, plants will react to a lack of water, dropping leaves and prioritizing the most important stuff. It could be said that plants can thirst, but I don't feel the thirst counts as suffering unless it can perceive it on an emotional level. A starfish may feel pain, but, ultimately, so what?

My hope with this page is to reach a better working definition of sentience through rational arguments, rather than prejudice. Please tell me what you guys think. User:JakeBear 2:29, 25 August 2015 (EST)