View Full Version : What is sentience?
04-20-2008, 05:50 AM
How do we know when something/someone is sentient? Is it when they have a certain level of intelligence? Is it when they have the capacity for empathy? Is it just the ability to choose actions independently to meet your chosen goals, and having the ability to modify those goals in relation to your will? Could it be that having a "will" is sentience?
My guess is that having a "conscious will" has something to do with sentience, but that leaves open a particular question... how do you determine if something actually has its own will, or simply behaves as though it does because it was taught to do so, or does so because of its instincts? How can we be sure there's a valid difference between the two?
You cannot determine if something else is sentient or if its simply a good simulation. I, for example, am not sentient, yet I do enough simulation to convince you (maybe).
04-20-2008, 06:23 AM
I'm not sure if it's a valid term at all. (ie. describing a real thing)
Intelligence is a sliding scale. There can't be one particular point where something intelligent is suddenly sentient. The concept of will is highly dubious.
Sentience in this context probably refers to conscious awareness of one's self and/or surroundings ("I am somewhat aware and I seem to know it"), in other words a sort of lucidity pertaining to one's existence. This introduces another problem, though: how lucid are we? I think there are few humans that wouldn't agree that homo sapiens sapiens is the most lucid of all beings, but I'm not sure if that allows us to say anything about how lucid we actually and ultimately are. (I'm taking humans as the standard, since we appear to be the most sentient of all beings, besides superbeings.)
I would say it has nothing at all to do with intelligence. It has to do with a division within yourself. Self-knowledge involves an internal differentiation between the self as knower and the self as known.
04-20-2008, 10:01 AM
Sentience or Sapience?
04-20-2008, 05:47 PM
I think you're confusing sentience for sapience. To be sentient something must be capable of perceiving its surrounds and act upon it. As an example, a bumble is sentient, a stone is not. To be sapient, one must be able to reason, internally, so as to act with judgement. For example, a dog shows sapience when it learns not to pee in the house under risk of punishment. The difference between the dog and the bee here, is that the bee can't learn or unlearn. It can only follow it's mental programming without expansion or adaptability. (adaptability in this case is handle by genes and natural selection without the aspect of learning and reason)
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