Mindreading Animals: The Debate over What Animals Know about Other Minds (MIT Press)

Robert W. Lurz


Animals live in a world of other minds, human and nonhuman, and their well-being and survival often depends on what is going on in the minds of these other creatures. But do animals know that other creatures have minds? And how would we know if they do? In Mindreading Animals, Robert Lurz offers a fresh approach to the hotly debated question of mental-state attribution in nonhuman animals. Some empirical researchers and philosophers claim that some animals are capable of anticipating other creatures' behaviors by interpreting observable cues as signs of underlying mental states; others claim that animals are merely clever behavior-readers, capable of using such cues to anticipate others' behaviors without interpreting them as evidence of underlying mental states. Lurz argues that neither position is compelling and proposes a way to move the debate, and the field, forward.

Lurz offers a bottom-up model of mental-state attribution that is built on cognitive abilities that animals are known to possess rather than on a preconceived view of the mind applicable to mindreading abilities in humans. Lurz goes on to describe an innovative series of new experimental protocols for animal mindreading research that show in detail how various types of animals -- from apes to monkeys to ravens to dogs -- can be tested for perceptual state and belief attribution.

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