I’ve a cat at home. Her name is Charlie (she’s a female). I’ve been living with her for more than 16 years and over the years, I’ve come to know her quite well. Even if she doesn’t speak, I usually communicate a lot with her in the course of a day. If she’s hungry, angry, playful or simply needs to go outside, she knows very well how to express these feelings and communicate them to me because I’ve learn to distinguish the whole range of her miaowing. If you ask me if she thinks and reasons, I would certainly answer positively even if I’ve no way to prove that fact. But the way she can manipulate me by purring next to my ear when she wants something makes me really believe she’s definitely a cognitive and smart being.
In the same house, we also have spiders. Not a lot, but from time to time, we can see rather big ones running over the wall. I’m not particularly fond of them, but I don’t fear them either. This is not quite true for my wife who just cannot suffer them into the house, even the most tiny ones. If she sees one in the house, she will keep her distance and call me to the rescue in order to move the spider out of the house (we don’t kill them). I’ve tried to explain her that the spider is probably more scared than us but even if she agrees, she still fear them, no matter what. Then I decided to give names to the spider such as to make the situation less stressful. I decide to name them Charlotte. So now, instead of saying “There is a spider in the kitchen”, my wife now says “I think Charlotte’s back”. She still doesn’t like them, but it makes the situation less alarming for her. Naming this tiny creature make me wonders what is the difference between Charlie and Charlotte ? What makes me consider my cat to be almost conscious while I (personally) do not even consider the question for a spider ? Would I consider the question for a rat ? a mouse ? a shrew ? And where do I stop down this road ? In other words, what is lacking in the spider that is present in the cat ?
I’ve no answer yet. But I’m working on it.