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The question of whether animals are capable of thinking has always bothered people in general and scientists from different areas of scientific thought. In trying to answer this question, investigators have viewed it from different perspectives. Some philosophers have believed that animals possess neither soul nor mind; however, many scientists from other areas of knowledge such as natural science have provided a number of arguments in support of the opposite opinion.
At present, such concepts as mind and thinking have been thoroughly defined. The mind is referred to as an ability to control one’s actions, including logical thinking, linking thoughts to each other, and the ability to abstract from the current moment and develop plans for the future (Griffin, 2013). Having a mind is a prerequisite for thinking, while thinking is the action of a living being with reasoning ability. The justification in this paper will be built around this understanding. The purpose of this writing is to provide arguments to support the statement that living beings are capable of thinking, using examples of different animals.
The mimic octopus or Thaumoctopus mimicus is an amazing living being. It can take a new form, imitating snakes, fish, crustaceans, and other animals in an instant by changing its size and shape (FullKanal, 2010). The evidence suggesting that this animal can think lies in the ability of the octopus to solve a problem not instinctively but purposefully. Although the structure of the brain of the mimic octopus differs from that of human beings, its mind is comparable to that of a human. In particular, many researchers emphasize that the functioning of the brain, the transmission of signals, and the processing of information occurs in a similar manner in both species.
It is crucial that this kind of animal needs to think in order to have an adequate and accurate representation of itself, the structure of the body, and the possibilities associated with these features. In order to mimic other animals, the octopus needs to match another animal’s parameters with its own abilities to shrink or expand to a similar size (FullKanal, 2010). This problem can be solved very quickly by the mimic octopus, indicating that it is fully aware of its capabilities.
The kaleidoscopic skin of the octopus gives it an ability to mimic any substrate, changing the shape and texture of the body; however, this happens under the influence of the emotional or physiological state of the animal.
Analyzing the video, the collected information, and my personal experience, it can be assumed that the mimic octopus can think due to the fact that it is capable of empirical learning. It incorporates not only the ability to process visual information logically but also uses this knowledge in a way that depends on the situation (Griffin, 2013). Therefore, animals do have minds and experience occurrences that reinforce their thinking.
The crow belongs to the Corvidae family. It is worth noting that the crow is considered one of the smartest birds by many researchers and theorists. In the example in the video, a crow sleds down the roof using a plastic lid, supporting a number of arguments that indicate that this kind of bird can think (Adrian, 2013). For instance, this unusual skill implies that the crow can display an advanced capacity for using tools.
Other animals also know how to use tools, for example, for obtaining food while exercising these tools with their own labor. In the case of the crow from the video, this instrument was not created by the bird, which means that the creature was able to understand the functional and physical properties of the finished instrument (Adrian, 2013). Consequently, crows have an understanding of an object’s physics, which implies a number of logical links, and this is direct evidence of the thinking process since the bird did not use reflexes or physical strength but its cognitive skills.
It should be noted that thinking is necessary for crows to be resilient and adapted to living in different conditions. For example, in a situation of limited choice, the crow will be able to understand how to get out of a predicament by using its abilities and skills (Griffin, 2013). Consequently, thinking is essential for animals to live a better life while transforming objects around them.
Moreover, based on the video, it can be assumed that crows can draw analogies. Sledding is not a primary necessity or skill in the healthy life of a crow. Consequently, the bird can draw parallels between different objects and actions, and just as a person can go sledding, a crow can use a plastic lid for entertainment.
This ant type belongs to two different genera, Atta and Acromyrmex. Despite the fact that many scientists rely on various arguments to support the opinion that ants are capable of thinking, many counterarguments are also possible. On the one hand, the process involved in the livelihood of leaf-cutter ants is surprising and extremely systematic. The ants gnaw the leaves loose from the plant, carry them to the anthill and store the leaves in chambers.
A special fungus that grows on these leaves serves as food for the entire ant village (National Geographic, 2009). These ants cultivate the fungus by providing new seedlings. In addition, when growing the fungus, the ants feed it with their secretions and keep the plants clean by protecting the spores with an antibiotic from harmful bacteria. Thus, the way of life of ants is similar to the way people live on farms, and the key aspect of their activities is that ants cultivate food rather than extracting it from the outside.
On the other hand, a single ant has limited intellectual abilities, since their mind has a collective nature. According to the video and my personal observation, a clear hierarchy is the guarantor of their successful life, and if separated from their community, ants are not able to survive. Each caste performs a specialized function; therefore, ants do not need to develop their thinking because their life is reduced to a narrow set of skills and occupations (Griffin, 2013). Ant settlements are able to analyze disparate data when changing the place of settlement or to maintain the life of their community. Nevertheless, it can be assumed that they are only capable of collective conscious behavior. They are conscious, but not self-conscious.
The lyrebird or Menuridae can imitate forest sounds and voices of other birds. It can also imitate the barking of a dog and a bee’s buzzing or mimic any sound that it hears. Based on the video, it can be assumed that lyrebirds display at least some form of thinking. They coordinate their movements to the music they produce and employ various tail, wing, and leg movements to accompany their vocals with a dance (BBCWorldwide, 2007).
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This feature is also characteristic of living beings capable of cognitive thinking, such as humans. People dance and coordinate their movements in time with the music they hear. The same is applicable to this bird type that tries to dance to the music it produces. It is reasonable to assume that the synchronization of dance movements with the acoustics could be challenging in terms of cognitive capabilities. Moreover, the lyrebird can distinguish different sounds and try to produce exactly the same noises, which implies some form of analytical thinking.
It can be assumed that this bird needs to think to be able to breed. The male individuals learn different sounds to impress females, and it is not unreasonable to state that the male bird that produces the most impressive sound or music will earn the attention of the female (Griffin, 2013). Therefore, it can also be suggested that this is another form of thinking since males can determine causal relationship between the influence of different sounds and the favors of females.
Dolphins (Delphinidae) are commonly referred to as the smartest mammal among animal species. Much research has been carried out to prove that this mammal has a mind and is capable of thinking. The video provides evidence to justify that this statement is true. It displays dolphins in a tank who are swimming and playing peacefully (Torenheksje, 2008). This suggests that they are emotional beings who can be sad, rejoice, and have fun. In addition, this video shows that dolphins have well-developed imitative behavior. The mammals are playing with air bubbles, which suggests that they can repeat one after another.
In turn, this indicates that they easily remember things and reproduce the actions of other individuals. Playing with air bubbles is not a primary instinct or reflex, and it is not a means of satisfying primary needs. Consequently, dolphins know how to accumulate knowledge and use it for their entertainment (Griffin, 2013). The dolphin in the video swims after the air bubble and smashes it with its nose into small ones so that the bubbles do not disappear. This is a form of game technique, which implies the presence of cause-effect relationships, incorporating mathematical and physical analysis, a complex cognitive process.
Dolphins need to think to be able to build a variety of processes that work to improve the quality of their life. As follows from the video, these mammals live in captivity and, having shown a research approach, they have come to the conclusion that they are not in danger and should not remain cautious (Torenheksje, 2008). Having evaluated the situation and adjusted their behavior to it, dolphins can play safely. This orientation in the setting allows dolphins to better adapt to the environment so that they can live in harmony.
Thus, it can be concluded that animals are able to think since they have a mind and perform certain actions according to the situation. Despite the difference of the animal mind from that of the human, some species display complex cognitive processes. Living beings interact with each other as well as with the environment, which can provoke the advance of mental activity in them. The absence of speech is an obstacle to claims about the mindfulness of living beings, but animals’ actions allow the conclusion to be drawn that mental, analytical, and logical activity is present in them.
Adrian. (2013). Crow uses plastic lid to sled down roof [Video file]. Web.
BBCWorldwide. (2007). Amazing! Bird sounds from the lyre bird [Video file]. Web.
FullKanal. (2010). Most intelligent mimic octopus in the world [Video file]. Web.
Griffin, D. (2013). Animal minds. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
National Geographic. (2009). Leafcutter ants [Video file]. Web.
Torenheksje. (2008). Dolphins blow bubble air rings [Video file]. Web.