Comparative cognitive science often involves asking questions like ‘Do nonhumans have C?’ where C is a capacity we take humans to have. These questions frequently generate unproductive disagreements, in which one party affirms and the other denies that nonhumans have the relevant capacity on the basis of the same evidence. I argue that these questions can be productively understood as questions about natural kinds: do nonhuman capacities fall into the same natural kinds as our own? Understanding such questions in this (...) way has several advantages: it preserves the intuition that these are substantive empirical questions worth asking; it helps us to understand why they so frequently give rise to disagreements of the kind described; and it provides clues about how to diagnose and resolve them. (shrink)
While growing empirical evidence suggests a continuity between human and non-human psychology, many philosophers still think that only humans can act and form beliefs rationally. In this paper, we challenge this claim. We first clarify the notion of rationality. We then focus on the rationality of beliefs and argue that, in the relevant sense, humans are not the only rational animals. We do so by first distinguishing between unreflective and reflective responsiveness to epistemic reasons in belief formation and revision. We (...) argue that unreflective responsiveness is clearly within the reach of many animals. We then defend that a key demonstration of reflective responsiveness would be the ability to respond to undermining defeaters. We end by presenting some empirical evidence that suggests that some animal species are capable of processing these defeaters, which would entail that even by the strictest standards, humans are not the only rational animals. (shrink)
Like many others, I see Crump et al. (2022) as a milestone for improving upon previous guidelines and for extending their framework to decapod crustaceans. Their proposal would benefit from a firm evolutionary foundation by adding the comparative measurement of life-history complexity as a ninth criterion for attributing sentience to nonhuman animals.
I try to identify elements of our mental capacities that separate us from animals. I focus on our command of logical concepts, demonstrable already in children in the second or third year of their life, which to date no animal has been shown to master. I draw various conclusions about the behavioural, intellectual, emotional, and moral capacities that depend on this mastery, and discuss recent empirical research that either supports or apparently disagrees with the claim that animals, even those we (...) consider intelligent, are limited in these respects. My discussion is built around observations extracted from Wittgenstein. (shrink)
In this book, the author investigates if animals have consciousness. Two salient issues covered in it are the nature of subjectivity and how a sense of self (and awareness of the other) evolves from its biological underpinnings.
Os debates sobre a existência da consciência em animais não humanos vêm ganhando cada vez mais destaque nos círculos científicos e filosóficos ao redor do mundo. Um importante empecilho que a área atualmente enfrenta diz respeito à construção de um método confiável capaz de identificar se um determinado animal não humano possui estados mentais conscientes. A literatura nomeia essa questão de “o problema da mensuração da consciência animal”. A presente dissertação possui como objetivo analisar e responder esse problema através da (...) combinação entre o uso de evidências empíricas e de ferramentas filosóficas. Dito isso, existem inúmeras formas de respondê-lo. Ao longo do texto, analisarei algumas das que são consideradas mais relevantes na discussão atual. Uma delas é a concepção cética de que não há questão de fato sobre os animais não humanos serem ou não conscientes. Em contraste, as abordagens neutras e newtonianas buscam se esquivar de compromissos metafísicos e teóricos para atribuir consciência aos animais. Ao final da dissertação defenderei a chamada “abordagem teórica leve”, posição originalmente proposta pelo filósofo Jonathan Birch. Buscarei mostrar que ela é atualmente a hipótese empiricamente mais adequada e filosoficamente plausível dentre as disponíveis na literatura. (shrink)
It is generally assumed that humans are the only animals who can possess a concept of death. However, the ubiquity of death in nature and the evolutionary advantages that would come with an understanding of death provide two prima facie reasons for doubting this assumption. In this paper, my intention is not to defend that animals of this or that nonhuman species possess a concept of death, but rather to examine how we could go about empirically determining whether animals can (...) have a concept of death. In order to answer this question, I begin by sketching an account of concept possession that favours intensional classification rather than mere extensional discrimination. Further, I argue that the concept of death should be construed as neither binary nor universal. I then present a proposal for a set of minimal conditions that must be met to have a concept of death. I argue that having a minimal understanding of death entails first expecting a dead individual to be alive, and then grasping its non-functionality and irreversibility. Lastly, I lay out the sort of observational and experimental evidence that we should look for to determine whether animals have the capacity for a minimal comprehension of death. (shrink)
The indeterminacy problem is one of the most prominent objections against naturalistic theories of content. In this essay I present this difficulty and argue that extant accounts are unable to solve it. Then, I develop a particular version of teleosemantics, which I call ’explanation-based teleosemantics’, and show how this outstanding problem can be addressed within the framework of a powerful naturalistic theory.
According to the practice-focused approach to moral agency, a participant stance towards an entity is warranted by the extent to which this entity qualifies as an apt target of ascriptions of moral responsibility, such as blame. Entities who are not eligible for such reactions are exempted from moral responsibility practices, and thus denied moral agency. I claim that many typically exempted cases may qualify as moral agents by being eligible for a distinct participant stance. When we participate in moral responsibility (...) practices, we are not only participating as potential targets of moral reactions, but also as sources of such address, i.e. as moral addressors. By consequence, there are entities towards which we seem to have reason to adopt an addressor participant stance, regardless of their eligibility as moral addressees. This expanded theoretical room for moral agency may also be of normative import. (shrink)
Recently, psychological phenomena have been expanded to new domains, crisscrossing boundaries of organizational levels, with the emergence of areas such as social personality and ecosystem learning. In this contribution, we analyze the ascription of an individual-based concept (personality) to the social level. Although justified boundary crossings can boost new approaches and applications, the indiscriminate misuse of concepts refrains the growth of scientific areas. The concept of social personality is based mainly on the detection of repeated group differences across a population, (...) in a direct transposition of personality concepts from the individual to the social level. We show that this direct transposition is problematic for avowing the nonsensical ascription of personality even to simple electronic devices. To go beyond a metaphoric use of social personality, we apply the organizational approach to a review of social insect communication networks. Our conceptual analysis shows that socially self-organized systems, such as isolated ant trails and bee’s recruitment groups, are too simple to have social personality. The situation is more nuanced when measuring the collective choice between nest sites or foraging patches: some species show positive and negative feedbacks between two or more self-organized social structures so that these co-dependent structures are inter-related by second-order, social information systems, complying with a formal requirement for having social personality: the social closure of constraints. Other requirements include the decoupling between individual and social dynamics, and the self-regulation of collective decision processes. Social personality results to be sometimes a metaphorical transposition of a psychological concept to a social phenomenon. The application of this organizational approach to cases of learning ecosystems, or evolutionary learning, could help to ground theoretically the ascription of psychological properties to levels of analysis beyond the individual, up to meta-populations or ecological communities. (shrink)
We have structured our response according to five questions arising from the commentaries: (i) What is sentience? (ii) Is sentience a necessary or sufficient condition for moral standing? (iii) What methods should guide comparative cognitive research in general, and specifically in studying invertebrates? (iv) How should we balance scientific uncertainty and moral risk? (v) What practical strategies can help reduce biases and morally dismissive attitudes toward invertebrates?
Philosophical attention to animals can be found in a wide range of texts throughout the history of philosophy, including discussions of animal classification in Aristotle and Ibn Bâjja, of animal rationality in Porphyry, Chrysippus, Aquinas and Kant, of mental continuity and the nature of the mental in Dharmakīrti, Telesio, Conway, Descartes, Cavendish, and Voltaire, of animal self-consciousness in Ibn Sina, of understanding what others think and feel in Zhuangzi, of animal emotion in Śāntarakṣita and Bentham, and of human cultural uniqueness (...) in Xunzi. In recent years, there has been increased attention to animal minds in philosophical discussions across many areas of metaphysics, epistemology, and value theory. Given that nonhuman animals share some biological and psychological features with humans, and that we share community, land, and other resources, consideration of nonhuman animals has much to contribute to our philosophical activities. -/- Contemporary philosophy of animal minds often also engages with the sciences of animal cognition and behavior. The science of comparative cognition is a thriving area of research, complementing the philosophical study in two ways. For one, philosophers of animal cognition can use claims resulting from animal cognition studies as premises in philosophical discussions. For example, Jacob Beck (2012) relies on pigeons’ abilities to compare quantities to argue for nonconceptual content; Sidney Carls-Diamante (forthcoming) appeals to octopus behavior and physiology to defend embodied cognition; Richard Moore (2016a) refers to ape gestural communication to rethink the requirements for intentional communication; Andrew Barron and Colin Klein (2016) appeal to insect cognition research to defend new theories of consciousness; Sarah Vincent, Rebecca Ring, and Kristin Andrews (2019) cite dolphins’ social practices to argue for the existence of norms that do not require metacognition. -/- In addition, philosophers of animal cognition can examine the epistemology and methods used to justify the claims that arise from the science. Research into animal cognition has resulted in surprising claims about animal capacities, such as sociality in garter snakes (Skinner & Miller 2020), tool-use in ants (Maák et al. 2017), mirror self-recognition in fish (Kohda et al. 2019), empathy in rats (Bartal et al. 2011), social learning in fruit flies (Danchin et al. 2018), episodic memory in dogs (Fugazza et al. 2020), addition and subtraction in bees (Howard et al. 2019). How should we evaluate such claims? -/- Some philosophers have argued that animal cognition research is held to a higher standard than human cognition research, and that scientists working with animals are sometimes asked to solve skeptical problems (Halina 2015). Others have challenged scientific assumptions about the relationship between brain size and intelligence, as well as biases against invertebrates (Mikhalevich & Powell 2020). -/- Animal cognition research challenges philosophers to consider that many capacities and behaviors often assumed to require language, sophisticated technological capacities, or legal systems may in fact be had by other animals who lack these properties. In this way, animal cognition research often surprises us by showing that sophisticated-looking activity can be caused through rather simple mechanisms. -/- 1. What is Animal Cognition? 2. Philosophical Assumptions in the Study of Animal Cognition 2.1 Theory-ladenness 2.2 Value-ladenness 2.3 Objectivity 2.4 Simplicity 2.5 Summary 3. Animal Cognition Applied to Philosophy 3.1 The problem of other minds 3.2 The mind-body problem 3.3 Consciousness 3.4 Thought 3.5 Communication 3.6 Social understanding 3.7 The influence of animal cognition on value theory 3.7.1 Ethics 3.7.2 Political theory 3.8 Summary Bibliography Academic Tools Other Internet Resources Related Entries. (shrink)
Humans interact with animals in numerous ways and on numerous levels. We are indeed living in an “animal”s world,’ in the sense that our lives are very much intertwined with the lives of animals. This also means that animals, like those dogs we commonly refer to as our pets, are living in a “human’s world” in the sense that it is us, not them, who, to a large degree, define and manage the interactions we have with them. In this sense, (...) the human-animal relationship is nothing we should romanticize: it comes with clear power relations and thus with a set of responsibilities on the side of those who exercise this power. This holds, despite the fact that we like to think about our dogs as human’s best friend. Dogs have been part of human societies for longer than any other domestic species. Like no other species they exemplify the role of companion animals. Relationships with pet dogs are both very widespread and very intense, often leading to strong attachments between owners or caregivers and animals and to a treatment of these dogs as family members or even children. But how does this relationship look from the dogs’ perspective? How do they perceive the humans they engage with? What responsibilities and duties arise from the kind of mutual understanding, attachment, and the supposedly “special” bonds we form with them? Are there ethical implications, maybe even ethical implications beyond animal welfare? The past decades have seen an upsurge of research from comparative cognition on pet dogs’ cognitive and social skills, especially in comparison with and reference to humans. We will therefore set our discussion about the nature and ethical dimensions of the human–dog relationship against the background of the current empirical knowledge on dog (social) cognition. This allows us to analyze the human–dog relationship by applying an interdisciplinary approach that starts from the perspective of the dog to ultimately inform the perspective of humans. It is our aim to thereby identify ethical dimensions of the human–dog relationship that have been overlooked so far. (shrink)
Marino & Merskin (2019) demonstrate that sheep are more cognitively complex than typically thought. We should be cautious in interpreting the implications of these results for welfare considerations to avoid perpetuating mistaken beliefs about the moral value of intelligence as opposed to sentience. There are, however, still important ways in which this work can help improve sheeps’ lives.
—Commentary on Mikhalevich and Powell on invertebrate minds.— Whether or not arthropods are sentient, they can have moral standing. Appeals to sentience are not necessary and retard progress in human treatment of other species, including invertebrates. Other increasingly well-documented aspects of invertebrate minds are pertinent to their welfare. Even if arthropods are not sentient, they can be agents whose goals—and therefore interests—can be frustrated. This kind of agency is sufficient for moral status and requires that we consider their welfare.
The philosophy of animal minds addresses profound questions about the nature of mind and the relationships between humans and other animals. In this fully revised and updated introductory text, Kristin Andrews introduces and assesses the essential topics, problems, and debates as they cut across animal cognition and philosophy of mind, citing historical and cutting-edge empirical data and case studies throughout. The second edition includes a new chapter on animal culture. There are also new sections on the evolution of consciousness and (...) tool use in animals, as well as substantially revised sections on mental representation, belief, communication, theory of mind, animal ethics, and moral psychology. Further features such as chapter summaries, annotated further reading, and a glossary make The Animal Mind an indispensable introduction to those teaching philosophy of mind, philosophy of animal minds or animal cognition. It will also be an excellent resource for those in fields such as ethology, biology, and psychology. (shrink)
If a conclusion was reached that creatures without a language capability exhibit some form of a capability for logic, this would shed a new light on the relationship between logic, language, and thought. Recent experimental attempts to test whether some animals, as well as pre-linguistic human infants, are capable of exclusionary reasoning are taken to support exactly that conclusion. The paper discusses the analyses and conclusions of two such studies: Call’s (2004) two cups task, and Mody and Carey’s (2016) four (...) cups task. My paper exposes hidden assumptions within these analyses, which enable the authors to settle on the explanation which assigns logical capabilities to the participants of the studies, as opposed to the explanations which do not. The paper then demonstrates that the competing explanations of the experimental results are theoretically underdeveloped, rendering them unclear in their predictions concerning the behavior of cognitive subjects, and thus difficult to distinguish by use of experiments. Additionally, it is questioned whether the explanations are rivals at all, i.e. whether they compete to explain the cognitive processes of the same level. The contribution of the paper is conceptual. Its aim is to clear up the concepts involved in these analyses, in order to avoid oversimplified or premature conclusions about the cognitive abilities of pre- and non-linguistic creatures. It is also meant to show that the theoretical space surrounding the issues involved might be much more diverse and unknown than many of these studies imply. (shrink)
Kant holds that “on the basis of their actions” we can infer that “animals act in accordance with representations” (Critique of the Power of Judgment, 5: 464, fn.). Animals, like humans, have the powers of sensibility, imagination and choice, but lack the human powers of understanding, reason and free choice. They also lack first-person representation, consciousness, concepts and inner sense. Nevertheless, animals have an analog of reason that involves connections of representations that explain their behavior. Kant cannot call such connections (...) beliefs because he identifies beliefs with judgments, but a present-day Kantian who distinguishes animal beliefs from judgments can do so. Kant’s examples of the types of things to which animals are responsive make it clear that he holds that they perceive—and, more generally, represent—Gibsonian affordances. Such affordances go beyond the information contained in an animal’s sensory impressions at any given moment, so their perceptual representation must involve what Kant calls synthesis of the imagination. But this does not imply that Kant thinks that human perception is like animal perception in the sense that it does not involve or depend upon concepts. (shrink)
Rendell and Whitehead's thorough review dispels notions that culture is an exclusive faculty of humans and higher primates. We applaud the authors, but differ with them regarding the evolution of cetacean culture, which we argue resulted from the availability of abundant but spatially and temporally patchy prey such as schooling fish. We propose two examples of gene-culture coevolution: (1) acoustic abilities and acoustic traditions, and (2) transmission of environmental information and longevity.
The sacrilegious proposition of the existence of cultures in whales and dolphins should open the discussion of cultures in other animals, allowing us to find what is unique in human cultures. The ethnographic approach used by all anthropologists is the key in this investigation and revealed that cultural differences are present in animals and could result from different learning mechanisms.
Henrich et al. describe an innovative research program investigating cross-cultural differences in the selfishness axiom (in economic games) in humans, yet humans are not the only species to show such variation. Chimpanzees and capuchin monkeys show signs of deviating from the standard self-interest paradigm in experimental settings by refusing to take foods that are less valuable than those earned by conspecifics, indicating that they, too, may pay attention to relative gains. However, it is less clear whether these species also show (...) the other-regarding preferences seen in humans. (shrink)
Demonstrating cetacean communicative cultures requires documenting vocal differences among conspecific groups that are socially learned and stable across generations. Evidence to date does not provide strong scientific support for culture in cetacean vocal systems. Further, functional analyses with playbacks are needed to determine whether observed group differences in vocalizations are meaningful to the animals themselves.
Hull et al. argue that information and replication are both essential ingredients in any selection process. But both information and replication are found in only some selection processes, and should not be included in abstract descriptions of selection intended to help researchers discover and describe selection processes in new domains.
We present behavioral lateralizations of spiders and ants and their probable survival value. They clearly conform to the vertebrate lateralizations reviewed by Vallortigara & Rogers and to earlier arthropod studies. We suggest two complementary reviews: differences in lesion susceptibility and muscle strength between left and right body side, and perceptual biases and predator inspection in invertebrates.
For a long time, several natural phenomena have been considered unproblematically selection processes in the same sense of “selection.” In our target article we dealt with three of these phenomena: gene-based selection in biological evolution, the reaction of the immune system to antigens, and operant learning. We characterize selection in terms of three processes (variation, replication, and environmental interaction) resulting in the evolution of lineages via differential replication. Our commentators were largely supportive with respect to variation and environmental interaction but (...) critical with respect to replication, in particular its appeal to information. With some reservations, our commentators think that our general analysis of selection may fit gene-based selection in biological evolution and the reaction of the immune system but not operant learning. If nothing else, this article shows that the notion of selection is not as straightforward as it may seem. (shrink)
Although there are some common underlying mechanisms for many nonhuman behavioural asymmetries, the evidence at present is not compelling for commonalities in cerebral organisation across vertebrates. Phylogenetic analysis of detour behaviour in fish suggests that more closely related species are not particularly similar in the direction of turning; contingency and demands of ecological niches may better explain such asymmetries.
The types of cetacean cultural behavior patterns described (primarily food-related and communication-related) reflect a very different research focus than that found in primatology, where dietary variation and food processing is emphasized and other potentially patterns have (until recently) been relatively neglected. The lack of behavioral research in all but a few cetacean species is also notable, as it mirrors a bias in primatology towards only a few genera.
Over the last quarter century, the dominant tendency in comparative cognitive psychology has been to emphasize the similarities between human and nonhuman minds and to downplay the differences as (Darwin 1871). In the present target article, we argue that Darwin was mistaken: the profound biological continuity between human and nonhuman animals masks an equally profound discontinuity between human and nonhuman minds. To wit, there is a significant discontinuity in the degree to which human and nonhuman animals are able to approximate (...) the higher-order, systematic, relational capabilities of a physical symbol system (PSS) (Newell 1980). We show that this symbolic-relational discontinuity pervades nearly every domain of cognition and runs much deeper than even the spectacular scaffolding provided by language or culture alone can explain. We propose a representational-level specification as to where human and nonhuman animals' abilities to approximate a PSS are similar and where they differ. We conclude by suggesting that recent symbolic-connectionist models of cognition shed new light on the mechanisms that underlie the gap between human and nonhuman minds. (shrink)
In our target article, we argued that there is a profound functional discontinuity between the cognitive abilities of modern humans and those of all other extant species. Unsurprisingly, our hypothesis elicited a wide range of responses from commentators. After responding to the commentaries, we conclude that our hypothesis lies closer to Darwin's views on the matter than to those of many of our contemporaries.
From an early age, humans know a surprising amount about basic physical principles, such as gravity, force, mass, and shape. We can see this in the way that young children play, and manipulate objects around them. The same behaviour has long been observed in primates - chimpanzees have been shown to possess a remarkable ability to make and use simple tools. But what does this tell us about their inner mental state - do they therefore share the same understanding to (...) that of a young child? Do they understand the simple, underlying physical principles involved? Though some people would say that they do, this book reports groundbreaking research that questions whether this really is the case. -/- Folk Physics for Apes challenges the assumptions so often made about apes. It offers us a rare glimpse into the workings of another mind, examining how apes perceive and understand the physical world - an understanding that appears to be both similar to, and yet profoundly different from our own. The book will have broad appeal to evolutionary psychologists, developmental psychologists, and those interested in the sub-disciplines of cognitive science (philosophy, anthropology). The book additionally offers for developmental psychologists some valuable new non-verbal techniques for assessing causal understanding in young children. (shrink)
We argue that the function of human culture is to clarify what people value. Consequently, nothing in cetacean behavior (or any other animal's behavior) comes remotely close to this aspect of human culture. This does not mean that the traditions observed in cetaceans are uninteresting, but rather, that we need to understand why they are so different from our own.
Studies of animal culture have not normally included a consideration of cetaceans. However, with several long-term field studies now maturing, this situation should change. Animal culture is generally studied by either investigating transmission mechanisms experimentally, or observing patterns of behavioural variation in wild populations that cannot be explained by either genetic or environmental factors. Taking this second, ethnographic, approach, there is good evidence for cultural transmission in several cetacean species. However, only the bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops) has been shown experimentally to (...) possess sophisticated social learning abilities, including vocal and motor imitation; other species have not been studied. There is observational evidence for imitation and teaching in killer whales. For cetaceans and other large, wide-ranging animals, excessive reliance on experimental data for evidence of culture is not productive; we favour the ethnographic approach. The complex and stable vocal and behavioural cultures of sympatric groups of killer whales (Orcinus orca) appear to have no parallel outside humans, and represent an independent evolution of cultural faculties. The wide movements of cetaceans, the greater variability of the marine environment over large temporal scales relative to that on land, and the stable matrilineal social groups of some species are potentially important factors in the evolution of cetacean culture. There have been suggestions of gene-culture coevolution in cetaceans, and culture may be implicated in some unusual behavioural and life-history traits of whales and dolphins. We hope to stimulate discussion and research on culture in these animals. (shrink)
We suggest that the phenomenon of uncertainty monitoring in nonhuman animals contributes richly to the conception of nonhuman animals' self-monitoring. We propose that uncertainty may play a role in the emergence of new forms of behavior that are adaptive. We recommend that Smith et al. determine the extent to which the uncertain response transfers immediately to other test paradigms.
There are good arguments for examining great ape communicative achievements for what they contribute to our understanding of great ape cognition and its evolution (Russon & Begun, in press a). Our concern is whether Shanker & King's (S&K's) thesis advances communication studies from a broader cognitive and evolutionary perspective.
Atran & Norenzayan's (A&N's) analysis fits with other perspectives on evoked culture: Cultural beliefs might emerge simply from the fact that people share a common cognitive architecture. But no perspective on culture can be complete without incorporating the unstoppable role of communication. The evolutionary landscape of culture will be most completely mapped by theories that describe specifically how communication translates evolved cognitive canals into cultural beliefs.
The thesis of discontinuity between humans and nonhumans requires evidence from formal reasoning tasks that rules out solutions based on associative strategies. However, insightful problem solving can be often credited through talking to humans, but not to nonhumans. We note the paradox of assuming that reasoning is orthogonal to language and enculturation while employing the criterion of using language to compare what humans and nonhumans know.
While supporting the claim for culture in cetaceans, I suggest that Rendell and Whitehead's argument is potentially incomplete if based solely on ethnographic evidence. The notion of cetacean culture can also be explored experimentally. I hope to complement the authors' assertion by discussing dolphin brain and behavioural research findings, thus contributing to a more holistic argument for culture in dolphins.
Whatever else language may be, it is complex and multifaceted. Shanker & King (S&K) have tried to contrast a dynamic interactive view of language with an information processing view. I take issue with two main claims: first, that the dynamic interactive view of language is a “new paradigm” in either animal research or human language studies; and second, that the dynamic systems language-as-dance view of language is in any way incompatible with an information-processing view of language. That some information is (...) defined in coregulated social interaction guarantees the dancing. That all information is composed of relevant differences guarantees the information processing. (shrink)
(Penultimate Draft). I consider common ground in its evolutionary context and argue for several claims. First, common ground is widely (though not universally) distributed among social animals. Second, the use of common ground is favored (i.e. is predicted to emerge and subsequently persist) among populations of animals whose members face recurrent interdependent decision-making problems in which the benefit of their courses of action are contingent on the variable choices of their stable social partner(s). Third, humans deploy cognitive and social mechanisms (...) for establishing and updating common ground that are not deployed by other living animals—the use of common ground has not only persisted within the human lineage but been amplified as well. Finally, I suggest that some of these points count against the iterative construal of common ground. In its place, I propose an alternative psychological construal of common ground in terms of what I will call reciprocal responsiveness. (shrink)
Recent discussions of animal communication and the evolution of language have advocated adopting a ‘pragmatics-first’ approach, according to which “a more productive framework” for primate communication research should be “pragmatics, the field of linguistics that examines the role of context in shaping the meaning of linguistic utterances”. After distinguishing two different conceptions of pragmatics that advocates of the pragmatics-first approach have implicitly relied on, I argue that neither conception adequately serves the purposes of pragmatics-first approaches to the origins of human (...) linguistic communication. My main aim in this paper is to motivate–and begin to articulate–an intermediary conception whose scope is narrower than Carnapian pragmatics but broader than Gricean pragmatics. To do so, I first spell out what I take to be the key insight offered by proponents of the Gricean approach concerning the emergence of linguistic communication, namely, its being communication ‘from a psychological point of view’. I then develop this insight using key elements from the anti-Gricean ‘biosemantic’ account of linguistic communication due to Ruth Millikan, Philosophical Perspectives 9, Ridgeview Publishing, Atascedero CA, 1995, Millikan R Varieties of Meaning. Mass.: The MIT Press, Cambridge, Millikan, Beyond concepts: unicepts, language, and natural information, Oxford University Press, Oxford UK, 2017, and elsewhere). I argue that the intermediary pragmatics-first approach that I propose, which draws on both Gricean and Millikanian resources, would be better equipped to serve the purposes of those who search for potential precursors of human linguistic communication in animal communication. (shrink)
This paper explores the significance of intelligent social behavior among non-human animals for philosophical theories of communication. Using the alarm call system of vervet monkeys as a case study, I argue that interpersonal communication (or what I call “minded communication”) can and does take place in the absence of the production and recognition of communicative intentions. More generally, I argue that evolutionary theory provides good reasons for maintaining that minded communication is both temporally and explanatorily prior to the use of (...) communicative intentions. After developing these negative points about the place of communicative intentions in detail, I provide a novel alternative account according to which minded communication is characterized in terms of patterns of action and response that function to coordinate the representational mental states of agents. I show that an account which centers on patterns of representational coordination of this sort is well suited to capture the theoretical roles associated with minded communication and that it does so in a way that provides a good fit with comparative facts about the presence of minded communication among non-human animals. (shrink)
In this paper, we introduce an ecological account of communication according to which acts of communication are active inferences achieved by affecting the behavior of a target organism via the modification of its field of affordances. Constraining a target organism’s behavior constitutes a mechanism of socially extended active inference, allowing organisms to proactively regulate their inner states through the behavior of other organisms. In this general conception of communication, the type of cooperative communication characteristic of human communicative interaction is a (...) way of constraining interaction dynamics toward the goals of a given joint action by constructing and altering shared fields of affordances. This account embraces a pragmatist view according to which communication is a form of action aiming to influence the behavior of a target, and stands against the traditional transmission view according to which communication fundamentally serves to convey information. Understanding acts of communication as active inference under an ecological interpretation allows us to link communicative and ultimately linguistic behavior to the biological imperative of minimizing free energy and to emphasize the action-oriented nature of communicative interaction. (shrink)
This dissertation may be divided into two parts. The first part is about the Extended Gricean Model of information transmission. This model, introduced here, is meant to better explain how humans communicate and understand each other. It has been developed to apply to cases that were left unexplained by the two main models of communication found in contemporary philosophy and linguistics, i.e. the Gricean (pragmatic) model and the code (semantic) model. In particular, I show that these latter two models cannot (...) apply to cases where one communicate through spontaneous emotional expressions and how the Extended Gricean Model of information transmission does. The second part of the dissertation is about what emotional signs mean, in various senses of the term ‘mean'. I review existing theories of meaning and see how they apply to emotional signs, i.e. signs which give us information about the affective state of the sign producer. (shrink)