A handy guide to the words you need to know to talk about the ways animals think and feel.
Try to discuss non-human animals’ thoughts or emotions, and you quickly run into trouble. The main problem: there are no widely agreed-to definitions of things like consciousness or sentience. So people talk past each other. Often, people who think they are disagreeing about whether horses, say, are conscious, are actually having two separate monologues, because to each of them the word consciousness means something different.
In my book Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel, I knew I needed definitions early on. These definitions have helped me consider and discuss thoughts, emotions, and so on. I hope they’re helpful to you. This is a very quick intro to a very big topic that I delve deeply into in the book.
So without further ado, a few definitions….