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Sentience is being capable of feeling, consciousness or having some form of mind.[1] Eighteenth-century philosophers used the concept to distinguish the ability to think (reason) from the ability to feel (sentience).

Intelligence and sentience

In simple English, to be sentient means displaying and/or having the ability to:

  1. Feel
  2. Perceive
  3. Desire
  4. possibly Will, though this goes beyond some definitions.

Philosophy and sentience

In the philosophy of consciousness, sentience can refer to the ability of any thing to have subjective perceptual experiences, or as some philosophers refer to them, "qualia".[2]

Animal rights and sentience

Thinking about sentience is important when studying animal rights. This is because feeling is needed in order to suffer. The basis of animal rights is that some animals have emotions, can feel pain and also feel happy and well.[3]


  1. Runes D.D. (ed) 1942. "Consciousness at a rudimentary sensory level". New York: Philosophical Library, p290.
  2. Online papers on qualia, by various authors, compiled by David Chalmers
  3. "Animal Sentience". Animal Liberation Front website. Retrieved 28 June 2014.