The Different Degrees of Awareness
Although phenomenal consciousness exists at every level of the cosmos, access consciousness is a function of neural wetware. Simply put, there is something that it is like to be an entity with a brain. Furthermore, depending on the level of neural complexity in organisms the more sophisticated their subjective experiences tend to be.
LEVEL 0 — GANGLION
LEVEL 1 — HINDBRAIN
LEVEL 2 — MIDBRAIN
LEVEL 3 — FOREBRAIN
In the most technical sense, humans are 8th scale beings, with level 3 minds, in a type 0 civilization. Of course, the level of mind is all that needs to be considered for the present argument. As you hopefully already know, our brains evolved from the inside out, so we have within us, the neurological structure of lesser creatures as they have emerged over time.
In line with this, pelagic tunicates possess very limited minds, with level zero awareness. Moving up through more and more developed species this becomes increasingly more advanced. This means that amphibians can become smarter than fish, and elephants are more intelligent than alligators.
Of course, depending on the degree of sophistication, some birds are more clever than others. For instance, ravens have far more advanced brains than chickens. So, the kinds of subjective experiences the former is capable of having are significantly more complex than that of the latter, based on both the size and structure of their brains.
The point that I am trying to make is that every animal is capable of thinking, but they don’t all have the same degree, let alone kind, of thoughts. The primitive problem-solving abilities of a lizard are vastly inferior to that of a dolphin. Moreover, we need to take this into account when considering the quality of life of non-humans. Some animals suffer a great deal more than others, even when they are both exposed to the same stressful event. The bottom line is that the feelings of fish are not as important as the feelings of people, but they are still important, especially to the fish.