Mirror self-recognition and symbol-mindedness

Biology and Philosophy (2012)
Abstract   The view that mirror self-recognition (MSR) is a definitive demonstration of self-awareness is far from universally accepted, and those who do support the view need a more robust argument than the mere assumption that self-recognition implies a self-concept (e.g. Gallup in Socioecology and Psychology of Primates, Mouton, Hague, 1975 ; Gallup and Suarez in Psychological Perspectives on the Self, vol 3, Erlbaum, Hillsdale, 1986 ). In this paper I offer a new argument in favour of the view that MSR shows self-awareness by examining the nature of the mirror image itself. I argue, using the results of ‘symbol-mindedness’ experiments by Deloache (Trends Cogn Sci 8(2):66–70, 2004) , that where self-recognition exists, the mirror image must be functioning as a symbol from the perspective of the subject and the subject must therefore be ‘symbol-minded’ and hence concept possessing. Further to this, according to the Concept Possession Hypothesis of Self-Consciousness (Savanah in Conscious Cogn 2011 ), concept possession alone is sufficient to demonstrate the existence of self-awareness. Thus MSR as a demonstration of symbol-mindedness implies the existence of self-awareness. I begin by defending the ‘mark test’ protocol as a robust methodology for determining self-recognition. Then follows a critical examination of the extreme views both for and against the interpretation of MSR as an indication of self-awareness: although the non-mentalistic interpretation of MSR is unconvincing, the argument presented by Gallup is also inadequate. I then present the symbol-mindedness argument to fill in the gaps in the Gallup approach. Content Type Journal Article Pages 1-17 DOI 10.1007/s10539-012-9318-2 Authors Stephane Savanah, ARC Centre of Excellence in Cognition and its Disorders (CCD), Macquarie University, Sydney, NSW 2109, Australia Journal Biology and Philosophy Online ISSN 1572-8404 Print ISSN 0169-3867.
Keywords Mirror self-recognition  self-consciousness  self-awareness  symbol
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DOI 10.1007/s10539-012-9318-2
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References found in this work BETA
H. P. Grice (1957). Meaning. Philosophical Review 66 (3):377-388.
C. M. Heyes (1998). Theory of Mind in Nonhuman Primates. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 21 (1):101-114.

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