Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
PaulS

Consciousness in insects

Recommended Posts

I wonder what people here think about consciousness in insects.  Do you think insects know they're alive?  Do they appreciate their lives?

A spider came out of a bucket yesterday and I smeared him across the table in an instance.  One second he's enjoying reclining in his little nook and the next, bang, it's all over.  I doubt he knew what hit him.

No afterlife for him?  Will he be missed by other spiders?  Would he have liked to live longer and see his 3000 children (the ones he didn't eat) grow up?

But seriously, what do you think goes through an insect's mind?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
7 hours ago, PaulS said:

I wonder what people here think about consciousness in insects.  Do you think insects know they're alive?  Do they appreciate their lives?

A spider came out of a bucket yesterday and I smeared him across the table in an instance.  One second he's enjoying reclining in his little nook and the next, bang, it's all over.  I doubt he knew what hit him.

No afterlife for him?  Will he be missed by other spiders?  Would he have liked to live longer and see his 3000 children (the ones he didn't eat) grow up?

But seriously, what do you think goes through an insect's mind?

When you smack a spider the last thing to go through its mind is its butthole.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

"Does a dog have Buddha nature?" Is maybe an "eastern response", at heart a question rather than an "answer". The stock "answer" is "Mu", or "nothingness ". To say either "yes" or "no" is to miss the point, or rather, is to enter the world of dualism. What is required is an "appropriate response", the teachings of a lifetime. 

So we can have ourselves as "special", something "worth the wait", made in the image of a prior creator, transcendent to ourselves, or we can truly ask the question "as if our hair is on fire" and express our own appropriate response. 

I was reading a novel by Charles Bukowski, "Pulp", where right at the beginning the main character, a Private Eye, sitting in his office, swats a fly, thus "taking it out of the game", his stance towards even himself, a man awaiting the moment he will be swatted away. Apparently Bukowski is admired for his "honesty".

What is "honesty"? Does a dog - or even a spider - have Buddha nature? 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I am sure I have linked to this before ... an interesting [meditative] take on personal consciousness.

I must admit there are elements in the excerpt that I can relate to; the book I thought was worth reading. As to spiders having consciousness? Consciousness could well be an illusion.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 03/11/2017 at 4:22 PM, tariki said:

I was reading a novel by Charles Bukowski, "Pulp", where right at the beginning the main character, a Private Eye, sitting in his office, swats a fly, thus "taking it out of the game", his stance towards even himself, a man awaiting the moment he will be swatted away. Apparently Bukowski is admired for his "honesty".

I have been thinking about that very thought Tariki - eventually I too will be swatted away and my life ended much like that little spider.  Are either of us better off?  At the end of the day, my life/his life - it's all over pretty quick.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 11/2/2017 at 6:56 PM, PaulS said:

I wonder what people here think about consciousness in insects.  Do you think insects know they're alive?  Do they appreciate their lives?

I have always thought that, with the exception of man (that is to the best of our knowledge) other forms of life simply are alive yet not self-conscious - not able to 'step out of themselves' and see themselves alive. Animals and (I guess) insects have consciousness but It is man, who is both blessed and cursed with self-consciousness.

Not sure what 'answer as if our hair is on fire' because we are the one who can sit back and say we should answer that way, don't think you'll hear an insect buzzing about that :+} It will experience either being on fire or not, flying one second, squashed the next. Whereas man can 'contemplate' being on fire, being squashed, being worth it, dualism and nothingness (although I suspect we can't really know nothingness since we experience ourselves as always being - not nothing). 

As to the eternal question, are we better off than the insects? I answer with the Immortal words of Burl: "When you smack a spider the last thing to go through its mind is its butthole;" However, it is not the last thing that goes through the minds of men.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thinking about  a response  to the question, seems to me,  would get me no closer to the truth. So i would have to say it is either unanswerable or i don't know.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
17 minutes ago, JosephM said:

Thinking about  a response  to the question, seems to me,  would get me no closer to the truth. So i would have to say it is either unanswerable or i don't know.

Come on Joseph, make a guess. Which answer to you lean to?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, thormas said:

I have always thought that, with the exception of man (that is to the best of our knowledge) other forms of life simply are alive yet not self-conscious - not able to 'step out of themselves' and see themselves alive. Animals and (I guess) insects have consciousness but It is man, who is both blessed and cursed with self-consciousness.

Not sure what 'answer as if our hair is on fire' because we are the one who can sit back and say we should answer that way, don't think you'll hear an insect buzzing about that :+} It will experience either being on fire or not, flying one second, squashed the next. Whereas man can 'contemplate' being on fire, being squashed, being worth it, dualism and nothingness (although I suspect we can't really know nothingness since we experience ourselves as always being - not nothing). 

As to the eternal question, are we better off than the insects? I answer with the Immortal words of Burl: "When you smack a spider the last thing to go through its mind is its butthole;" However, it is not the last thing that goes through the minds of men.

 

Once we give some sort of "value" to the asking of questions we leave no-thing-ness behind. But is that "better" than equating ourselves with the situation of a fly or a spider?

"Do not see yourself as better than others, nor as less than others, or the equal of others" ( Buddha )

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I believe insects are sentient but not conscious.  The larval and pupal stages seem to rule out that possibility.  I can't even imagine the evolution of metamorphosis.  

Edited by Burl

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
53 minutes ago, Burl said:

I believe insects are sentient but not conscious.  The larval and pupal stages seem to rule out that possibility.  I can't even imagine the evolution of metamorphosis.  

True enough Burl: good distinction.

 

57 minutes ago, tariki said:

Once we give some sort of "value" to the asking of questions we leave no-thing-ness behind. But is that "better" than equating ourselves with the situation of a fly or a spider?

"Do not see yourself as better than others, nor as less than others, or the equal of others" ( Buddha )

Not sure what is meant by giving value to questions but it is the nature of self conscious men to ask questions - and both perceive and assign value.

I see man as more - so better (?), higher value (?) - than insects and a higher form of life: so do all one suspects who have swatted a fly, killed ants or roaches in their home or gone on a killing spree against mosquitoes

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thormas, sorry, we are just talking past each other. The bottom line is "enlightenment", seeing. Classification, dissection, can follow, but first we must see. To classify, value, dissect, speak of higher and lower,  as part of a pursuit of "understanding", this because it is "fun" to do so, is to miss the mark and merely to wander about to no purpose. 

How do we come to see? Ask me another. Do I see? Ask me another. 

Thanks, but that's it. 

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
3 hours ago, tariki said:

Thormas, sorry, we are just talking past each other. The bottom line is "enlightenment", seeing. Classification, dissection, can follow, but first we must see. To classify, value, dissect, speak of higher and lower,  as part of a pursuit of "understanding", this because it is "fun" to do so, is to miss the mark and merely to wander about to no purpose. 

How do we come to see? Ask me another. Do I see? Ask me another. 

Thanks, but that's it. 

We learn, dissect, classify, value, speak of higher and lower and ........through all these, we are (hopefully) seeing and becoming enlightened; we are coming to Be. We come to be in dialogue, in relation with others and the world and it is in and through such dialogue (and our response) - the conversations, the classifications, the valuing and on and on and so much more - that we continually make our way. So, it is all part of and, indeed, it can be fun. And, I'm sure there is some missing and some wandering, fits and starts and re-starts: none are perfect (yet) and it is work that takes time.

Now what is it you want to be asked about seeing?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
7 hours ago, Burl said:

I believe insects are sentient but not conscious.  The larval and pupal stages seem to rule out that possibility.  I can't even imagine the evolution of metamorphosis.  

From what I can tell with my empirical Google research, insects seem to retain some of their brain and remodel other parts of it (sensory and motor neurons) during these transitions.  So perhaps they retain their 'identity' and consciousness over the various stages but have the self awareness to understand they have new abilities and new purpose with their new body?  Maybe insects consider themselves 'born-again'!

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'll go with conscious/sentient but self-awareness seems a bridge too far............however the ideas of considering themselves born-again is highly entertaining and could play a part in Burl's Heathers section.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, Burl said:

Well, a lot of Christians are definitely in sects. B)

the mic is dropped, Burl walks off the stage.....................the crowd goes crazy

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 04/11/2017 at 10:13 PM, thormas said:

As to the eternal question, are we better off than the insects? I answer with the Immortal words of Burl: "When you smack a spider the last thing to go through its mind is its butthole;" However, it is not the last thing that goes through the minds of men.

 

I would suggest that if you were hit by a fast moving bus unwittingly, your mind might not be that much more active than the spider's.

But would the spider think of more in-depth and self conscious things if he had warning?  Perhaps.

Increasingly, science is determining animals have self awareness (primates, dolphins, elephants, even magpies).  We humans do have a tendency to judge things by our understanding of how we think things should be.  I find it interesting that we dismiss insectoid intelligence/self awareness because it doesn't meet the parameters that we have determined are required to meet the definition we have created.  I wonder if insects might hold a different opinion.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You are reading too literally as I was playing off Burl. However, even if we allow that, be it the bus or a large hand (in the case of the insect), and that not much goes on in either mind at the moment of sudden death, much more went on in the minds of the self-conscious man throughout his life. 

Be that as it may: as mentioned previously, I believe that insects have consciousness or awareness or are sentient - however they are not self conscious as man is. As an article from the Smithsonian puts it: "aren’t arguing that insects have deep thoughts and desires, like “I want to be the fastest wasp in my nest." Note the 'I,' is there an I? Awareness? Yes! Self-consciousness? Not so much.


This is not a judgment of how we think things should be but how we have believed things are.  As for animals, more seems to be going on like monkeys, perhaps dolphins, some dogs (others not so much), horses questionable, elephants, can't remember. Interesting stuff (and I would be delighted to know for certain that some of these fellow creatures have an awareness of self - akin to man's) but many of us are still trying to figure out and live with the one we know is definitely self-conscious: man. 

Edited by thormas

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I must admit you guys are missing the point a little ... in my opinion anyway.

If we look closely (use our awareness?) our consciousness is not what it is cracked up to be. 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
3 hours ago, romansh said:

I must admit you guys are missing the point a little ... in my opinion anyway.

If we look closely (use our awareness?) our consciousness is not what it is cracked up to be. 

 

I missed your definition of consciousness.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Actually, it is more than we imagine. Life is present to all and all, seemingly, have some 'awareness' of it but it is man, the one conscious of Self, who see bliss (eternity?) and as Campbell urges, grabs for it (knowing both that there is something to grab and that he is the one who is grabbing it).  

Consciousness could be an illusion................. but it probably isn't.

 

Edited by thormas

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
7 hours ago, thormas said:

You are reading too literally as I was playing off Burl. However, even if we allow that, be it the bus or a large hand (in the case of the insect), and that not much goes on in either mind at the moment of sudden death, much more went on in the minds of the self-conscious man throughout his life. 

Be that as it may: as mentioned previously, I believe that insects have consciousness or awareness or are sentient - however they are not self conscious as man is. As an article from the Smithsonian puts it: "aren’t arguing that insects have deep thoughts and desires, like “I want to be the fastest wasp in my nest." Note the 'I,' is there an I? Awareness? Yes! Self-consciousness? Not so much.


This is not a judgment of how we think things should be but how we have believed things are.  As for animals, more seems to be going on like monkeys, perhaps dolphins, some dogs (others not so much), horses questionable, elephants, can't remember. Interesting stuff (and I would be delighted to know for certain that some of these fellow creatures have an awareness of self - akin to man's) but many of us are still trying to figure out and live with the one we know is definitely self-conscious: man. 

No, I understand you were mucking around off the back of Burl's comment, but was just bringing the conversation back gently to serious consideration of insectoid consciousness.

How do we know more goes on in our minds throughout life than in an insects?  Because they don't do they things 'we' attribute that a self-conscious or self-aware entity should?  

Indeed, we have/do believe things to be a certain way.  Much of our thinking has been challenged in recent decades by science and new discoveries are being made all the time.  Perhaps one day science may indeed be able to drill down into this issue further.  As for now, of course conclusive evidence seems unavailable.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
7 hours ago, romansh said:

I must admit you guys are missing the point a little ... in my opinion anyway.

If we look closely (use our awareness?) our consciousness is not what it is cracked up to be. 

 

I read the reference you provided Rom and agree that most of the time we are perhaps not self-conscious.  Nonetheless, at times we are, and that is what I was questioning about an insect - do they have such moments too? The article wasn't promoting the non-existence of self consciousness from what I read/understood of it, but rather was simply saying that we aren't using it a lot of the time.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Insectoid consciousness - I like the way it sounds.

Still, you asked in the beginning of the thread, ".......what do you think goes through an insect's mind?"  You asked for opinions, correct? And now you ask, "How do we know more goes on in our minds throughout life than in an insects?"  Well, what we think or what (we think) we know, for some of us, is that it is not the same as man. Even the look I did to the Smithsonian confirmed this stance. 

The conclusion to date seems to be man is the being conscious of self. Could there be some interesting discovery in the future concerning insects? One guesses there there could be.  So, perhaps some day but seemingly not now.

However, if it is discovered that insects are like little self-conscious beings we have got to draw up a treaty to govern the actions of mosquitoes, flies, ants and in particular fire ants. Otherwise there will be war!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

×