I am increasingly startled by the confidence with which thinkers describe the thought process of animals. It appears that all one needs to know is what distinguishes humans from animals, then subtract that aspect in order to arrive at a model of the animal mind. Once we know what the animal mind is like, we can show how different it is from the human mind. Then concrete examples can be used: for instance, animals seldom get caught in tautologies — that is man’s unique privilege.
It does seem likely to me that there are qualitative degrees of intelligence, consciousness, or whatever you want to call it. I just do not see the reason for assuming that human beings stand absolutely alone on this side of whatever qualitative leap came last. Are we really willing to say that a dog’s mental life is closer to that of an ant than that of a human being? Is it possible that “lower” forms of life have in fact suffered from the short-circuit of self-consciousness without having the brain capacity to put it to the same range of uses as we do? Indeed, what if it isn’t even our brain capacity so much as the particular form of our bodies that enables us to make such exemplary use of consciousness? What if consciousness, as it were, “called for” the human body — flexible enough to be able to assume a variety of forms of life, weak enough to require both tools and social structures?
(I’m not proposing to answer these questions, of course.)