Gary  Comstock Author of Evaluating Organization Development

Gary Comstock

Gary Lynn Comstock, Alumni Distinguished Undergraduate Professor of Philosophy at North Carolina State University, conducts research on ethical questions in the biological sciences. He is especially interested in animal minds and the moral relevance of what's known and not known about the brains and behaviors of nonhuman mammals. He has won awards as a writer and as a teacher.

Subjects: Philosophy


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New article on cows' mental states

By: Gary Comstock
Subjects: Philosophy

I recently published two articles:

What Do We Need to Know to Know that Animals are Conscious of What They Know? Animal Behavior and Cognition vol. 6, no. 4, (2019), pp. 289-308.

In this paper I argue for the following six claims: 1) The problem is that some think metacognition and consciousness are dissociable. 2) The solution is not to revive associationist explanations; 3) …nor is the solution to identify metacognition with Carruther’s gatekeeping mechanism. 4) The solution is to define conscious metacognition; 5) … devise an empirical test for it in humans; and 6) … apply it to animals.

Bovine Prospection, the Mesocorticolimbic Pathways, and Neuroethics: Is a Cow’s Future Like Ours?, in L. Syd M Johnson, Andrew Fenton, and Adam Shriver, eds. Neuroethics and Nonhuman Animals (Cham, Switzerland: Springer, 2020), pp. 73-97. Purchase.

What can neuroscience tell us, if anything, about the capacities of cows to think about the future? The question is important if having the right to a future requires the ability to think about one’s future. To think about one’s future involves the mental state of prospection, in which we direct our attention to things yet to come. I distinguish several kinds of prospection, identify the behavioral markers of future thinking, and survey what is known about the neuroanatomy of future-directed bovine beliefs and desires. I suggest, in conclusion, that instead of asking whether a cow’s prospection is conscious, ask whether it is like ours—with “ours” understood to include all human beings.