It's a hard one indeed, so hard that despite an immense amount of research attention devoted to neurobiology, and despite great advances in our knowledge, I don't believe we are significantly closer to bridging the gap between that which is physical, anatomical and electro-neurochemical, and what is subjectively experienced by all of us ... or at least by me... But the hard problem of consciousness is so hard that I can't even imagine what kind of empirical findings would satisfactorily solve it.
The implications are clear enough while theoretically it might be possible for neuroscientists to know everything about the physical structure of the brain, its 'product' the mind with its thoughts and ideas, impressions and emotions, would still remain unaccounted for. "We seem as far from understanding the brain as we were a century ago," remarked the editor of Nature John Maddox. "Nobody understands how decisions are made or how imagination is set free."
If the human brain were so simple that we could understand it, we would be so simple that we couldn't.
Although brain scans and other neurotechnologies have provided groundbreaking insights into the workings of the human brain, the increasingly fashionable idea that they are the most important means of answering the enduring mysteries of psychology is misguided.
The human brain, made up of 100 billion neurons, each of which connects to thousands of other neurons, is the most complex biological structure on Earth. ... Even less complex brains are difficult to understand. Our brain is dynamic and continually changing. But even understanding the much less complex nervous system of a worm is elusive.
A very general mental capability that, among other things, involves the ability to reason, plan, solve problems, think abstractly, comprehend complex ideas, learn quickly and learn from experience.
Human language is unique in comparison to other forms of communication, such as those used by non-human animals. Communication systems used by other animals such as bees or apes are closed systems that consist of a finite, usually very limited, number of possible ideas that can be expressed.
Speculation about animal intelligence gradually yielded to scientific study after Darwin placed humans and animals on a continuum, although Darwin's largely anecdotal approach to the topic would not pass scientific muster later on. ... Unsatisfied with the anecdotal method of Darwin and his protégé Romanes, E. L. Thorndike brought animal behavior into the laboratory for objective scrutiny. Thorndike's careful observations of the escape of cats, dogs, and chicks from puzzle boxes led him to conclude that intelligent behavior may be compounded of simple associations and that inference to animal reason, insight, or consciousness is unnecessary and misleading. At about the same time, I. P. Pavlov began his seminal studies of conditioned reflexes in dogs. Pavlov quickly abandoned attempts to infer canine mental processes; such attempts, he said, led only to disagreement and confusion.
The great apes show considerable abilities for cognition and empathy. Chimpanzees make tools and use them to acquire foods and for social displays; they have sophisticated hunting strategies requiring cooperation, influence and rank; they are status conscious, manipulative and capable of deception; they can learn to use symbols and understand aspects of human language including some relational syntax, concepts of number and numerical sequence.
There is no fundamental difference between man and the higher mammals in their mental faculties.
But then with me the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man's mind, which has been developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy. Would any one trust in the convictions of a monkey's mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind?