Animal minds and the possession of concepts

Philosophical Psychology 20 (3):283 – 308 (2007)
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Abstract

In the recent literature on concepts, two extreme positions concerning animal minds are predominant: the one that animals possess neither concepts nor beliefs, and the one that some animals possess concepts as well as beliefs. A characteristic feature of this controversy is the lack of consensus on the criteria for possessing a concept or having a belief. Addressing this deficit, we propose a new theory of concepts which takes recent case studies of complex animal behavior into account. The main aim of the paper is to present an epistemic theory of concepts and to defend a detailed theory of criteria for having concepts. The distinction between nonconceptual, conceptual, and propositional representations is inherent to this theory. Accordingly, it can be reasonably argued that some animals, e.g., grey parrots and apes, operate on conceptual representations.

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