Sentience is the manifestation of a mind, linked to intelligence and
cognition. Sentient beings display the properties of consciousness and
intelligence. The idea of sentient beings extends to other animals but not to
plants. Plants have a strategy of existence, remarkable forms, beauty and
adaptability, but no minds. In a modern sense, sentience is a composite property
of brains that varies approximately with the size, organization and complexity
of the brain.
A hierarchy of sentience exists in the living world. The hierarchy of
sentience follows an evolutionary path with the oldest creatures such as worms
and shelled creatures of the sea at the lowest levels of sentience.
Mammals are more recent and more elaborate creatures with high levels of
sentience. Humans are mammals and have a natural affinity for some but not all
other mammals. Thus, it is reasonable to assume that dolphins, whale’s, apes and
humans have similar sentience. While dogs are sentient beings with
consciousness, feelings and behaviors that are mostly congruent with human
feelings and behaviors, they have smaller, more specialized brains. It is
reasonable to assume that dogs operate at a somewhat different level of
Chimpanzees and Bonobos are our closest primate relatives; their sentience is
similar to ours and they deserve our protection and respect. When you examine
human and chimpanzee cognitive abilities in detail, there are differences
between their ability and ours. For example, chimpanzees can learn “language”
from human teachers, using symbols, signs and keyboards, but they are unlikely
to create a virtual reality from sounds and symbols as humans do. Their social
communications are rich and complex, however, and provide us with insights into
the development of human spoken language.
Members of the philosophy departments at universities point to books and
journal papers as evidence of the thought process and will cite intelligent
argument or “reason” as the indispensable tool of philosophy.
The word “thought” is not so easily defined. In common use, thinking is
equivalent to selftalk, the process of talking to yourself when you are not busy
doing other things. Selftalk has important limitations that need to be
understood before human cognitive processes can be understood. Self talk extends
to conversation as group thinking, lectures, books and the constant chatter of