In Nagel’s article, “What Is It Like to Be a Bat,” he essentially argues that some experiences are subjective beyond understanding. As human beings, we have a tendency to reduce the experiences of other species or other beings and conform them into our own mental perceptions. Despite our evolved cognitive abilities—our tendencies to fabricate feelings and feign scenarios—the relationship between the mind and the body has its limits as to what one can provide for the other. As Nagel states, “we have at present no conception of what explanation of the physical nature of a mental phenomenon would be” (Nagel, 436). In context, even if we think we know what it is like to be a bat, we of not truly know what it is like for a bat to be a bat. Furthermore, Nagel expands on the disparity between the physical account of conscious experience and the mental account. Even if one is familiar with the physical sensuality of being upside down, there is a mental discrepancy among a being hanging upside down as a human and as a bat. I can imagine what it must be like to be nearsighted, nocturnal, maybe even to fly, but I cannot know what those states actually feel like for bats themselves. What does it feel like for a bat to be a bat? How does the conscious sensation of flying feel for bats? Does flying affect the state of the mind? Do bats have emotional connections?
Possibly for a bat to be a bat is much different from a human being a bat because our brains are different, and thus our levels of consciousness variate, so a bat may not be as aware or in tune with some of its senses than a human wold be. For example, although we think we can imagine what bats would see, maybe they see different colors than human beings do; our perception of light may be different from theirs. Although science attempts to objectify a bat’s feelings, in reality, a bat’s experience is so subjective, that there is barely anything “being left out” I can write about because there is so much being left out to write about. Our intellectual understanding of foreign creatures is so human-centric that we are limited even in our ability to mentally relate to them—although further analysis of consciousness is possible in the future.
Per common saying, mental awareness and connection is best exhibited through some form of empathy—“stepping into someone else’s shoes.” But to what degree is that limited?