Bees, brain and behaviour, a philosophical essay in theorectical biology

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Veldhuis, Phillip A.
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In the introduction to the second edition of Karl von Frisch's popular monograph [1950] on honeybee behaviour, Donald Griffin concludes: " a reluctance to become embroiled in metaphysics should not anesthetize our perceptions. Heretical as it may seem to many behavioral scientists, I am willing to entertain the thought that perhaps the bees know what they are doing [Griffin 1971, p. xiii]." In this thesis I will not be daunted by metaphysics. Rather, I will attempt to establish whether honeybee behaviour is best described by Griffin's cognitive theory, and whether this implies that it is reasonable to think "the bees know what they are doing". Griffin has argued extensively that it is possible to learn whether non-human animals think consciously. He has founded and defended the recent and controversial scientific discipline of cognitive ethology, which attempts to make a scientific "analysis of the cognitive processes of non-human animals" [Griffin 1992, p. vii]. Cognitive Ethology seeks to combine and apply theory and method from biology, neurophysiology, and cognitive psychology to animal ethology. My analysis of bee behaviour will be made within the framework of cognitive ethology. I will conclude that the dance language of the honeybees is intentional. I reject Griffin's strategy of conflating cognition with consciousness and self-consciousness. Therefore, although I think the best explanation of honeybee behaviour is a cognitive explanation, I do not conclude that honeybees are conscious or self-conscious.