In this paper I argue that Velmens’ reflexive model of perceptual consciousness is useful for understanding the first-person perspective and sentience in animals. I then offer a defense of the proposal that ray-finned bony fish have a first-person perspective and sentience. This defense has two prongs. The first prong is presence of a substantial body of evidence that the neuroanatomy of the fish brain exhibits basic organizational principles associated with consciousness in mammals. These principles include a relationship between a second-order sensory relay, the preglomerular complex, and the fish pallium which bears a resemblance to the relationship between the mammalian thalamus and the neocortex, the existence of feedback/feedforward and reentrant circuitry in the pallium, and structural and functional differences among divisions of the fish pallium. The second prong is the existence of behaviors in fish that exhibit significant flexibility in the presence of environmental change and require relational learning among stimuli distributed in space, over time, or both. I conclude that, although they are instantiated differently, a first-person perspective and sentience are present in fish.
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Woodruff, Michael L.. 2018. The Fish in the Creek Is Sentient, Even if I Can’t Speak With It. Trans/Form/Acao. Vol.41 119-152. https://doi.org/10.1590/0101-3173.2018.v41esp.08.p119 ISSN: 0101-3173