, Volume 26, Issue 3, pp 487–491 | Cite as

To be rational, or not to be rational—that is the question

Michael Tye: Tense bees and shell-shocked crabs: Are animals conscious? New York: Oxford University Press, 2016, 256pp, $29.95 HB
  • Susana MonsóEmail author
Review Essay

In this highly enjoyable, carefully argued, thought-provoking book, Michael Tye invites us to consider the difficult question of how widespread consciousness is in nature. Despite its circumscribed title, Tense Bees and Shell-Shocked Crabs: Are Animals Conscious? is not just a book about animal consciousness. It is a book about consciousness in general and, more specifically, under what circumstances we can be justified in attributing it to different entities—be they human or nonhuman, natural or artificial, similar to us or radically different from us. It is also a book on what animal consciousness means from an ethical perspective, although the reflections on this topic unfortunately leave a lot to be desired, as we shall see.

In Chapter 1, Tense Bees and Shell-shocked Crabskicks off with an explanation of why consciousness cannot be defined in purely objective terms, and how any definition of a given experience will necessarily leave out the subjective “felt” quality, which one...



I would like to thank Judith Benz-Schwarzburg, Samuel Camenzind, and Annika Huber for their comments on a previous draft of this review.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Unit of Ethics and Human-Animal Studies, Messerli Research Institute, University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna, Medical University of ViennaUniversity of ViennaViennaAustria

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