Are Animals Conscious?

I recognize that I have consciousness and am aware of who and where I am. But what about animals? Are they conscious?

The relationship between humans and other animals is complicated, to say the least.

Some animals we fear. Sometimes, that fear is obvious: sharp claws or piercing teeth are things to avoid. Others may be an evolutionary development, like fear of snakes or rats.

At the other end of the spectrum are animals we love. Ones we keep as pets, in particular dogs and cats, can become emotionally bonded to us. They might cuddle with us or attempt to please us in some way.

Still others we treat as food sources. Cows, pigs, and chickens are raised alongside many human cultures, providing milk or eggs, as well as meat.

Still other animals may not fit neatly into any of these categories. However, we can recognize their innate grace or beauty, and also see them as an important part of our ecosystem.

Regardless of the relationship, we can ask the question: Are animals conscious? We recognize the consciousness of ourselves and our fellow humans, even if we disagree with them or fight with them. But what about other animals?

If an animal is thirsty and then finds someplace to get a drink, is that an awareness of itself and its surroundings? Or is that simply instinct and not true awareness? What role does intelligence play?

And whatever answer you give, what are the ramifications of that answer? If you think that animals are indeed conscious, does that change the way we should treat them? Conversely, if you believe they are not self aware or aware of their environment, what conclusions can you draw?

Related questions: Do animals have rights? How are humans like other animals? How are they different? What is your favorite animal?

Should We Try To Predict The Future?

Despite many thousands of years of practice, human beings are mostly unable to predict the future. After failure upon failure, the question arises: should we even try?

From big events to trivial ones, we humans are really inept when it comes to divining what comes next. There are some very basic things — the sun will rise tomorrow — and that’s about it. Jobs are unstable. Health issues can arise at any time. Marriages fail regularly. And of course, the farther out in the future you go, the less certain things get.

Admittedly, as our understanding of the universe grows, some predictions come easier. For example, scientists can predict with great accuracy solar and lunar eclipses.

And yet, even science has its limitations. Predicting exactly when a particular breakthrough will or will not happen is an exercise in futility. Science is, inherently, an exploration of the unknown, which means that progress is inherently unknowable.

None of this stops us from trying to predict what comes next. From taking your umbrella with you when you go out for the day, to selecting the numbers for the lottery jackpot, we can’t help but guess what will happen next.

A lot of time, effort, and money is spent regularly on prognostication. Insurance companies have armies of actuaries. Pundits get paid to sound confident in their predictions of the next election, even if they were completely wrong about the last one. Meteorologists use the latest in cutting edge technology in forecasting the weather.

Could all this time, effort, and money be put to better use? Would our lives be better without the constantly mediocre attempts to predict the future? Or is it the case that our efforts in that direction is what drives us to learn? To make new discoveries that can make our lives better in other ways?

Related questions: What is time? How much does your past determine your future? How do you plan for the future? What is your five year prediction? Ten?

How Are You A Non-Conformist?

There are many ways that you can be different from the crowd, some obvious and so not so obvious. How are you a non-conformist?

Social pressure encourages people to fit in. To become one of the crowd. In our current capitalist society, to become just a cog in a larger societal machine.

While there is some value in that, as individuals we often struggle to be the unique beings we naturally are. There is no one in the world that is quite like me, from my DNA to my fingerprints to my upbringing to my personality.

And so we find ways to display that uniqueness. We are all, in one way or another, non-conformists.


Listen to a podcast where Michael and Lee discuss a related question: ‘What makes you you?’ We also discuss a bonus question: ‘What gives a person value?’


Some people shake off the yoke of conformity as rebellious teenagers. That might take the form of defying our parents, or dressing or behaving in ways that are not expected of us.

For others, being a non-conformist comes later in life. You might get a tattoo that has some sort of significance to you. Perhaps you decorate your work space in ways that are different from your co-workers. Clothing or jewelry can be used to set you apart from your peers.

Those choices are fine if you want to convey to everyone else that you have a streak of individuality. However, some might choose to be less obvious. They might seem just like everyone else from the outside, but they have a vibrant inner life, through what they read, or write. Or just think about.

Do you know the way in which you stand out from a crowd? Have you consciously chosen it, or does your lack of conformity come naturally? How are you a non-conformist?

Related questions: Individual or society? How much power does an individual have? How are you special?

What Do You Wish You Were Doing?

If money, time, expertise, or other limiting factors were not an issue, what would you choose to do? In other words, if you could do exactly what you wish to do, what would it be?

Too often, we get hung up on reasons we cannot do something. It takes too long to learn how to do it. It doesn’t pay enough to support me full time (or is too expensive for a hobby). I’m not good enough, or there are too many people who are better than I am.

As a thought experiment, what would you do if none of that mattered?


Listen to a podcast where Michael and Lee discuss the related question: ‘How do you define success?’ We also discuss a bonus question: ‘Is happiness the most important purpose in life?’


Obviously, some of these things do matter. If, for example, your dream is to play basketball in the NBA and you are 5’5″ and 50 years old, your dreams simply aren’t realistic.

Some hurdles are insurmountable. But most aren’t, and it is important to know the difference.

A big part of that is narrowing down what you really want to be doing. If you dream of being a rock star and playing in sold out arenas, is your dream to play music, to entertain people, or to be famous? The answer could change what the obstacles are to achieving your dream, and could point you in the direction to start.

But the very first step is to dream. In your dream, with no one or no thing standing in your way, how do you see yourself? What do you wish you were doing?

Related questions: What makes you the happiest? What do you want? To what should we aspire? What do you do with a day off work?

What Makes Change Possible?

Some times it seems as though things will never change. When you feel that way, how can you get unstuck and make change happen?

There are several reasons why you might feel that change is difficult, if not impossible.

For one example, you might feel like you have no good options. Rather than opting to make a bad choice, you may prefer to keep the status quo.

Alternately, you might feel like the situation is too big or too complex for any change you might make to have any significant impact. There are plenty of other alternatives as well.

Whatever the reason, is you feel you cannot or will not make a change, what can you do? Change, of course, is inevitable. But how can you make sure that the change that happens is most beneficial to you?

How can you change your circumstances, or at least your attitude? In your experience in your own life, what makes change possible?

Related questions: Change of status quo? How can you change your attitude? Can people change? How have you changed? How have we changed?