There is fundamental difference between human and animal mind, due to which humans possess ‘knowledge’ whereas animals do not. Actually ‘knowledge’ is the ‘theoretical awareness’ of any thing or phenomenon. Only humans are theoretically aware about their surrounding environment as well as about their ownselves, so only humans possess ‘knowledge’. I have discussed this issue in brief, and in quite general way, in my essay on topic: The Knowledge Explosion in the Modern Times.
Instead of considering ‘human knowledge’ just as some kind of advancement in so called ‘animal intelligence’, which some modern philosophers do, if knowledge were defined as “theoretical awareness of any thing or phenomenon” then other animals, at once, would be ousted from the domain of knowledge. And if only humans possess knowledge and animals possess no knowledge at all, then surely there must be a fundamental difference between human and animal mind, which is responsible for the fact that only humans possess knowledge whereas other animals do not.
The above referred modern school of thought actually believes in some difference in the degree of intelligence, of humans and animals. According to this school of thought, only such a difference in the degree of level of intelligence could account for the difference in human and animal knowledge. Again, according to this school of thought, knowledge is just some advanced form of same animal intelligence. But I believe in the fundamental difference between ‘intelligence’ and ‘knowledge’ too. Other animals can be intelligent for they are able to learn what they have been taught, or they are able to associate related events or things etc. But animals possess no knowledge at all because they know nothing in the theoretical format. In other words, they possess no theoretical stuff at all. So ‘knowledge’ and ‘intelligence’ are two separate and distinguished entities, in my opinion. Generally animal childs are more intelligent than human childs. Actually ‘intelligence’ is just the ability of organism to take actions as per the demands of environmental situations. Obviously different animals respond to environmental situations within the framework of their maximum abilities. We consider an animal ‘intelligent’ when it can display or show its optimum or best possible response to the environmental situations quickly, or in timely manner. An animal would be considered to be ‘intelligent’ when it shows the ability of taking right actions in its struggle for addressing to its bodily needs. When it becomes able to independently search its food sources etc. When it becomes able to be given ‘training’ for such tasks which are possible to be undertaken by its species. In this context, many animal childs can acquire all their possible abilities of taking actions as per the demands of situations in their much early life as compared to any human child. A normal human child, on the other hand, remains unable to even sit at his/ her own for as long period of his/ her early life as five or six months. Animal childs become ‘independent’ and so ‘intelligent’ in their very early life as compared to any human child. In this way, we can say that generally animal childs are more intelligent than human childs. But despite the fact of being ‘less intelligent’, it is only human child who possesses the potential of acquiring ‘knowledge’. It is due to the fact that there is fundamental difference between human and animal mind. And this fundamental difference has nothing to do with the degree or level of intelligence, which humans and animals possess. The most intelligent animal would be having no knowledge at all whereas the duffer most (grown up) human would still be theoretically aware, may be even in incorrect or wrong way, of at least some aspects of his environment.
Here, some people can agrue that animals are conscious, and thus self-conscious, and thus aware of their environments and themselves. In response to this, I would accept that animals are ‘conscious’. But I shall not accept the derivation of this conclusion that animals are self-conscious too, just because they are conscious.
Actually animals are ‘conscious’ only in this sense that their instinctive faculties can interact with the environment via sense perception. And in my opinion, there is also a basic difference between animal perception and human perception. In animal perception, sensory data interacts only with the instinctive faculties of animals such as hunger, thirst, fear, pleasure, comfort/ discomfort etc. and animal actions are thus guided in this way. Human perception, on the other hand, happens to have additional features also. In human perception, sensory data would interact not only with instinctive faculties, but also would interact with some additional features which are (i) psychological feelings and; (ii) theoretical propositions. At the most which I can reasonably accept is that for determining the differences between animals and humans, any hard boundary line cannot be established between the instinctive faculties and these two additional features because practically this boundary would penetrate, up to some extent, to the area defined as ‘psychological feelings’ also. This boundary line however, in no way, reaches to the area of ‘theoretical propositions’. Animal perception therefore, may have just something to do with ‘psychological feelings’ but can have nothing to do with ‘theoretical propositions’.
‘Consciousness’ basically is a manifested form of ‘sensitiveness’ and ‘responsiveness’. Only instinctive faculties, and in some cases, instinctive faculties plus fractional part of psychological feelings can generate these forms of ‘sensitiveness’ and ‘responsiveness’.
‘Self-Consciousness’, on the other hand is much-advanced feature. It is a ‘concept’ basically. This type of concept has to do only with the theoretical type knowledge. So ‘self-consciousness’ is the property of only humans.
I firmly believe that ‘theoretical awareness’ is the unique property of humans. Secondly the school of thought which takes human knowledge as just some advancement in ordinary animal intelligence, also considers ‘concepts’ as product of intelligence. I consider it the generosity of that school of thought that they give as much honor to ‘intelligence’. As I believe that some animals can be more ‘intelligent’ than some humans and in any case whatsoever, I would like to pay more respect to humans, so I do not consider ‘concepts’ as product of ‘intelligence’. Instead, I believe concepts as the product of human ‘rationality and wisdom’. This ‘rationality and wisdom’ is comprised of only those aspects of intelligence that can interact with theoretical propositions. So these aspects of intelligence have to be the part of only human intelligence and cannot be the part of animal intelligence.
I also have discussed some other aspects of differences of human and animal mind in my artical on “Desires – As one of Most Basic Differences of Human and Animal Mind”.
For further detailed analysis of the differences of human and animal mind, please check my article titled “Human Knowledge and its Expression”.