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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attributing mental states. In terms of counting kinds of representations, then, the complementary behavior-reading animal is taken to employ one fewer kind than its mindreading counterpart. Thus, if what the mindreading animal is thought to do is somehow simpler, then it must be in terms of the cognitive processes it employs, not in terms of the types of representations the processes range over. However, as we saw above, the cognitive processes a complementary behavior-reading animal might
course, this is a matter of degree: It depends on the actual number of distinct types of observable conditions involved. If there are only two (e.g., S, and S2), then the behavior-reading hypothesis is not as uneconomical as it would be if there were, say, four (S1-S4). How much less economical a behavior-reading hypothesis must be before we should prefer the mindreading hypothesis, the unifying hypothesis strategy does not say. The idea is that the less economical it is, the more we should
allows the animal's perceptual system to continue to fix a belief, as it is naturally disposed to do, but not the belief that the animal bears a spatial relation to an object that it knows is not there. This could be done rather easily if nature equipped the animal with the capacity to affix something like a qualifier to the subject-object spatial relation depicted in its perceptual belief, a qualifier that functions much in the way that 'seems' and 'appears' do in English. Thus, for example,
Roughly, the idea is that "[m]uch of the point of the concept of belief is that it is the concept of a state of an organism which can be true or false, correct or incorrect," and thus any creature that possesses the concept of belief must possess the corresponding concepts of truth and falsity (2001, p. 104). The concepts of truth and falsity that apply to beliefs, however, have an important objectively normative dimension to them, making it difficult to see how animals might come to possess