Who Has Sentience
Title – Who has sentience?

In collaboration with the Medical Advances Without Animals Trust, we are seeking a student for a research project on sentient organisms. In considering alternatives to animals in medical research, questions about whether "lower" animals are sentient, or not, often stimulate vigorous debate. The project requires a definition of sentience and why it matters (to philosophers and/or biologists). Some review of the philosophical literature on sentience, with reference to the scientific literature where appropriate, will be required, and from this platform conclusions and recommendations will be sought on where sentience ends phylogenetically, if at all. Some consideration of pan-psychism may be included if aligned with biological sentience. In assessing sentience, it will be helpful to consider biological examples such as quorum sensing, colony organism behaviour (e.g. slime moulds, ants), and whether cephalopods have brains. These and other examples can be used to illustrate, philosophically, where a boundary for sentience may be drawn.

Supervisors – Jason Grossman, Australian National University (philosophy of science), and Clare McCausland, La Trobe University (ethics)

Jason Grossman