Thoughts in response to a post of Tim Morton’s on plant sentience.
Following Maturana and Varela, it seems perfectly possible to have cognition without consciousness, calibration without calculation. Experiencing that extra recursion of ‘awareness of awareness’ and ‘attention to attention’ on top of the inherent qualia and quanta of the material embodiment of environment as experience (as/in metabolism that shapes morphism), might be an actual burden of/for ‘big brains’, as much as an adaptive blessing or benefit of evolution, as in anthropocentric accounts of evolution realising the asserted universe’s anthropic principle. In the prevailing Pollyannaist Panglossian evolutionary account, with its Spencerian selectionism and Calvinist electionism, all traits are seen as conferring selectionist advantages, and our familiarity with our own familiar traits and their familiar effects makes imaginable alternatives seem alien. A similar inherited familiarity endears a ‘highly evolved’ account to us, although everything extant now has the same length/breadth of evolutionary lineage/heritage, so there’s no being ‘highly evolved’. We’re all just constantly turning out of preceding materialisations, metabolic-morphic-moment by moment, as unconscious cognition of micro-shifts in environments condition uncalculated calibration of micro-shifts in entities’ metabolisms and morphisms, across all scopes, slime moulds, Sagittaria sagitufolia, Homo sapiens. Perhaps sentient might seem to mean sapient. Especially as intelligence, from ‘inter + legere’, means no more than ‘read into’ or ‘choose among’ (and not ‘almost [like] humans’).