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  • Brian D. Earp

Do bees have feelings? What would that mean? And if they do have feelings, how should we treat them? Do we have a moral obligation towards insects? A short commentary on M. Bateson, S. Desire, S. E. Gartside, and G. A. Wright, ‘Agitated Honeybees Exhibit Pessimistic Cognitive Biases’, Current Biology 21.12 (2011), 1070–3.

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1 This article is adapted from an informal blog post written by the author, Brian D. Earp, with the same title, originally published on 19 June 2011 at the Practical Ethics website, hosted by the University of Oxford Faculty of Philosophy. The original post can be accessed here: <>.

2 Bateson, M., Desire, S., Gartside, S. E., and Wright, G. A., ‘Agitated Honeybees Exhibit Pessimistic Cognitive Biases’, Current Biology 21.12 (2011), 1070–3.

3 Keim, B., ‘Honeybees Might Have Emotions’, Wired Science (17 June 2011), <>.

4 I'm alluding, of course, to Nagel, T., ‘What Is It Like To Be a Bat?’, The Philosophical Review 83 (1974), 435–50.

5 E.g. Singer, P., Animal Liberation (New York: Random House 1995).

6 For a nice introduction, see Tully, T., ‘Pavlov's Dogs’, Current Biology 13.4 (2003), R117R119 .

7 For further discussion of the different ‘levels’ of analysis at which different subjective experiences can be described and understood (with an emphasis on romantic love), see, e.g., Savulescu, J., and Earp, B. D., ‘Neuroreductionism about Sex and Love’, Think: A Journal of the Royal Institute of Philosophy 13.38 (2014), 712 ; Earp, B. D., Sandberg, A. and Savulescu, J., ‘The Medicalization of Love: Response to Critics’, Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics 25.4 (2016), 759–71.

8 For further discussion, see: Earp, B. D., ‘An Anti-Anti-Functionalist Account of Consciousness’, Annales Philosophici 4.1 (2012), 615 ; Earp, B. D., ‘I Can't Get No (Epistemic) Satisfaction: Why the Hard Problem of Consciousness Entails a Hard Problem of Explanation’, Dialogues in Philosophy, Mental and Neuro Sciences 5.1 (2012), 1420 ; Earp, B. D., ‘Does Rationality + Consciousness = Free Will?’, Journal of Consciousness Studies 20.1–2 (2013), 248–53.

9 See reference at note 2, at page 1072.

10 Horvath, K., Angeletti, D., Nascetti, G. and Carere, C., ‘Invertebrate Welfare: An Overlooked Issue’, Annali dell'Istituto Superiore di Sanità 49.1 (2013), 917 , at p. 9.

11 For further scholarly discussion of some of the ideas presented in this article, see, e.g., Mendl, M., Paul, E. S. and Chittka, L., ‘Animal Behaviour: Emotion in Invertebrates?’, Current Biology 21.12 (2013), R463R465 ; Crook, R. A., ‘The Welfare of Invertebrate Animals in Research: Can Science's Next Generation Improve their Lot?’, Journal of Postdoctoral Research 1.2 (2013), 120 .

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  • ISSN: 1477-1756
  • EISSN: 1755-1196
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