Which nonhuman animals experience conscious pain? Common sense suggests that the answer is obvious for all mammals and birds: they do! But people's intuitions begin to waver when it comes to reptiles, amphibians, ﬁsh, or invertebrates. Do lobsters feel pain when boiled alive? A recent study by the Norwegian government said that they don't. But Norway has a signiﬁcant lobster ﬁshing industry to protect, so it's easy regard the study with suspicion.
Few areas of scientific investigation have spawned more alternative approaches than animal behavior: comparative psychology, ethology, behavioral ecology, sociobiology, behavioral endocrinology, behavioral neuroscience, neuroethology, behavioral genetics, cognitive ethology, developmental psychobiology—the list goes on. Add in the behavioral sciences focused on the human animal, and you can continue the list with ethnography, biological anthropology, political science, sociology, psychology (cognitive, social, developmental, evolutionary, etc.), and even that dismal science, economics. Clearly, no reasonable-length chapter can do justice to such a varied collection. We (...) have opted therefore to focus on three of these subdisciplines and to provide a somewhat historical tour of them, mentioning along the way the philosophical points that are of particular interest to us, but allowing the development of these points to be limited only by the imaginations of our readers. For readers seeking a more-traditional historical survey, see Dewsbury (1984a, b) and Burghardt (1985a). Our chosen brief is to write about comparative psychology, ethology, and cognitive ethology, although other approaches, especially neuroscience, will be mentioned where appropriate. These sciences are philosophically significant because they are enmeshed in ancient philosophical questions about the nature of mind and purposeful action and about the differences between humans and other animals. These sciences are also clustered because of their attention to mechanistic explanations of individual animal behavior as opposed to attempting to capture regularities at a population level, such as the game-theoretic strategic models popular among behavioral ecologists. (shrink)
It is widely accepted that many species of non-human animals appear to engage in transitive inference, producing appropriate responses to novel pairings of non-adjacent members of an ordered series without previous experience of these pairings. Some researchers have taken this capability as providing direct evidence that these animals reason. Others resist such declarations, favouring instead explanations in terms of associative conditioning. Associative accounts of transitive inference have been refined in application to a simple five-element learning task that is the main (...) paradigm for laboratory investigations of the phenomenon, but it remains unclear how well those accounts generalize to more informationrich environments such as primate social hierarchies, which may contain scores of individuals. The case of transitive inference is an example of a more general dispute between proponents of associative accounts and advocates of more cognitive accounts of animal behaviour. Examination of the specific details of transitive inference suggests some lessons for the wider debate. (shrink)
Teleological terms such as "function" and "design" appear frequently in the biological sciences. Examples of teleological claims include: A (biological) function of stotting by antelopes is to communicate to predators that they have been detected. Eagles' wings are (naturally) designed for soaring. Teleological notions were commonly associated with the pre-Darwinian view that the biological realm provides evidence of conscious design by a supernatural creator. Even after creationist viewpoints were rejected by most biologists there remained various grounds for concern about the (...) role of teleology in biology, including whether such terms are: 1. vitalistic (positing some special "life-force"); 2. requiring backwards causation (because future outcomes explain present traits); 3. incompatible with mechanistic explanation (because of 1 and 2); 4. mentalistic (attributing the action of mind where there is none); 5. empirically untestable (for all the above reasons). Opinions divide over whether Darwin's theory of evolution provides a means of eliminating teleology from biology, or whether it provides a naturalistic account of the role of teleological notions in the science. Many contemporary biologists and philosophers of biology believe that teleological notions are a distinctive and ineliminable feature of biological explanations but that it is possible to provide a naturalistic account of their role that avoids the concerns above. Terminological issues sometimes serve to obscure some widely-accepted distinctions. (shrink)
As arti® cial intelligence moves ever closer to the goal of producing fully autonomous agents, the question of how to design and implement an arti® cial moral agent (AMA) becomes increasingly pressing. Robots possessing autonomous capacities to do things that are useful to humans will also have the capacity to do things that are harmful to humans and other sentient beings. Theoretical challenges to developing arti® cial moral agents result both from controversies among ethicists about moral theory itself, and from (...) computational limits to the implementation of such theories. In this paper the ethical disputes are surveyed, the possibility of a `moral Turing Test ’ is considered and the computational di culties accompanying the diŒerent types of approach are assessed. Human-like performance, which is prone to include immoral actions, may not be acceptable in machines, but moral perfection may be computationally unattainable. The risks posed by autonomous machines ignorantly or deliberately harming people and other sentient beings are great. The development of machines with enough intelligence to assess the eŒects of their actions on sentient beings and act accordingly may ultimately be the most important task faced by the designers of arti® cially intelligent automata. (shrink)
As the above quote clearly highlights, it is the responsibility of researchers and research supervisors to be certain that their research staff and students assistants are very familiar with all of the ethical principles and current standards relevant to the research they are conducting. Indeed, they must take an active role in being certain that their research staff and students complete appropriate training in these ethical principles and standards, and how they apply them to the research context in which they (...) are working. This is especially important in areas in which there may be physical harm such as chronic pain research. During the past decade, there has been a great increase in research of chronic pain, with breakthroughs in better understanding its etiology, assessment, and treatment (1,2). Obviously, much of this research was conducted using humans and animals as subjects. As a consequence, there were a number of ethical issues that investigators have to be cognizant of when conducting their studies. In this chapter, we will discuss such ethical issues in three major areas: (i) laboratory research with human subjects; (ii) laboratory research with animals; and (iii) translating these laboratory research ﬁndings to ‘‘real world’’ applications in the clinical treatment arena. (shrink)
How should scientists react to anthropomorphism (defined for the purposes of this paper as the attribution of mental states or properties to nonhuman animals)? Many thoughtful scientists have attempted to accommodate some measure of anthropomorphism in their approaches to animal behavior. But Wynne will have none of it. We reject his argument against anthropomorphism and argue that he does not pay sufficient attention to the historical facts or to the details of alternative approaches.
Primatologists generally agree that monkeys lack higher-order intentional capacities related to theory of mind. Yet the discovery of the so-called “mirror neurons” in monkeys suggests to many neuroscientists that they have the rudiments of intentional understanding. Given a standard philosophical view about intentional understanding, which requires higher-order intentionality, a paradox arises. Different ways of resolving the paradox are assessed, using evidence from neural, cognitive, and behavioral studies of humans and monkeys. A decisive resolution to the paradox requires substantial additional empirical (...) work and perhaps a rejection of the standard philosophical view. (shrink)
The Indiana Philosophy Ontology (InPhO) project is presented as one of the first social-semantic web endeavors which aims to bootstrap feedback from users unskilled in ontology design into a precise representation of a specific domain. Our approach combines statistical text processing methods with expert feedback and logic programming approaches to create a dynamic semantic representation of the discipline of philosophy. We describe the basic principles and initial experimental results of our system.
Questions about fish consciousness and cognition are receiving increasing attention. In this paper, I explain why one must be careful to avoid drawing conclusions too hastily about this hugely diverse set of species.
Wittgenstein famously ended his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (Wittgenstein 1922) by writing: "Whereof one cannot speak, one must pass over in silence." (Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muss man schweigen.) In that earliest work, Wittgenstein gives no clue about whether this aphorism applied to animal minds, or whether he would have included philosophical discussions about animal minds as among those displaying "the most fundamental confusions (of which the whole of philosophy is full)" (1922, TLP 3.324), but given his later writings on (...) language and thought, it seems a plausible hypothesis. Years later he wrote in the Philosophical Investigations (1968, p. 223) another aphoristic statement: "If a lion could speak, we would not understand him." (Wenn der Löwe sprechen könnte, wir könnten ihn nicht verstehen.) Decades of philosophical discussion about what Wittgenstein meant by these remarks illustrate another point: when philosophers speak, we do not fully understand them. (shrink)
The development of autonomous, robotic weaponry is progressing rapidly. Many observers agree that banning the initiation of lethal activity by autonomous weapons is a worthy goal. Some disagree with this goal, on the grounds that robots may equal and exceed the ethical conduct of human soldiers on the battlefield. Those who seek arms-control agreements limiting the use of military robots face practical difficulties. One such difficulty concerns defining the notion of an autonomous action by a robot. Another challenge concerns how (...) to verify and monitor the capabilities of rapidly changing technologies. In this article we describe concepts from our previous work about autonomy and ethics for robots and apply them to military robots and robot arms control. We conclude with a proposal for a first step toward limiting the deployment of autonomous weapons capable of initiating lethal force. (shrink)
If I could talk to the animals Content Type Journal Article Category Book Symposium Pages 1-15 DOI 10.1007/s11016-011-9553-1 Authors Thomas Suddendorf, School of Psychology, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia Mark E. Borrello, Program in the History of Science, Technology and Medicine, Department of Ecology Evolution and Behavior, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN, USA Colin Allen, Department of History and Philosophy of Science, College of Arts and Sciences, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN, USA Gregory Radick, Centre for History and Philosophy of Science, (...) Department of Philosophy, University of Leeds, Leeds, UK Journal Metascience Online ISSN 1467-9981 Print ISSN 0815-0796. (shrink)
I argue in opposition to Sam Rakover that the current lack of fully adequate theories of the subjective and qualitative aspects of mind does not justify the adoption of what he calls “methodological dualism” (Rakover, this issue). Scientific understanding of consciousness requires the continuation of attempts to explain it in terms of the neural mechanisms that support it. It would be premature to adopt a methodological stance that could foreclose on the possibility of more reductionistic approaches. The effects of such (...) a stance would be especially pernicious insofar as methodological dualism lacks rigorous methods for testing specific models. (shrink)
The application of digital humanities techniques to philosophy is changing the way scholars approach the discipline. This paper seeks to open a discussion about the difficulties, methods, opportunities, and dangers of creating and utilizing a formal representation of the discipline of philosophy. We review our current project, the Indiana Philosophy Ontology (InPhO) project, which uses a combination of automated methods and expert feedback to create a dynamic computational ontology for the discipline of philosophy. We argue that our distributed, expert-based approach (...) to modeling the discipline carries substantial practical and philosophical benefits over alternatives. We also discuss challenges facing our project (and any other similar project) as well as the future directions for digital philosophy afforded by formal modeling. (shrink)
We critically examine Denis Walsh’s latest attack on the causalist view of fitness. Relying on Judea Pearl’s Sure-Thing Principle and geneticist John Gillespie’s model for fitness, Walsh has argued that the causal interpretation of fitness results in a reductio. We show that his conclusion only follows from misuse of the models, that is, (1) the disregard of the real biological bearing of the population-size parameter in Gillespie’s model and (2) the confusion of the distinction between ordinary probability and Pearl’s causal (...) probability. Properly understood, the models used by Walsh do not threaten the causalist view of fitness. (shrink)
Primatologists generally agree that monkeys lack higher-order intentional capacities related to theory of mind. Yet the discovery of the so-called "mirror neurons" in monkeys suggests to many neuroscientists that they have the rudiments of intentional understanding. Given a standard philosophical view about intentional understanding, which requires higher-order intentionahty, a paradox arises. Different ways of resolving the paradox are assessed, using evidence from neural, cognitive, and behavioral studies of humans and monkeys. A decisive resolution to the paradox requires substantial additional empirical (...) work and perhaps a rejection of the standard philosophical view. (shrink)
In this paper, we approach the idea of group cognition from the perspective of the “extended mind” thesis, as a special case of the more general claim that systems larger than the individual human, but containing that human, are capable of cognition (Clark, 2008; Clark & Chalmers, 1998). Instead of deliberating about “the mark of the cognitive” (Adams & Aizawa, 2008), our discussion of group cognition is tied to particular cognitive capacities. We review recent studies of group problem-solving and group (...) memory which reveal that specific cognitive capacities that are commonly ascribed to individuals are also aptly ascribed at the level of groups. These case studies show how dense interactions among people within a group lead to both similarity-inducing and differentiating dynamics that affect the group's ability to solve problems. This supports our claim that groups have organization-dependent cognitive capacities that go beyond the simple aggregation of the cognitive capacities of individuals. Group cognition is thus an emergent phenomenon in the sense of Wimsatt (1986). We further argue that anybody who rejects our strategy for showing that cognitive properties can be instantiated at multiple levels in the organizational hierarchy on a priori grounds is a “demergentist,” and thus incurs the burden of proof for explaining why cognitive properties are “stuck” at a certain level of organizational structure. Finally, we show that our analysis of group cognition escapes the “coupling-constitution” charge that has been leveled against the extended mind thesis (Adams & Aizawa, 2008). (shrink)
"An invaluable guide to avoiding the stuff of science-fiction nightmares."--John Gilby, Times Higher Education -/- "Moral Machines is a fine introduction to the emerging field of robot ethics. There is much here that will interest ethicists, philosophers, cognitive scientists, and roboticists."-Peter Danielson, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews -/- "Written with an abundance of examples and lessons learned, scenarios of incidents that may happen, and elaborate discussions on existing artificial agents on the cutting edge of research/practice, Moral Machines goes beyond what is (...) known as computer ethics into what will soon be called the discipline of machine morality. Highly recommended."-G. Trajkovski, CHOICE -/- "...the book does succeed in making the essential point that the phrase 'moral machine' is not an oxymoron. It also provides a window onto an area of research with which psychologists are unlikely to be familiar and one from which, at some point, we may be able to learn quite a lot."-PsycCRITIQUES -/- "Moral Machines represents a valuable addition to, and extension of, the current literature on machine morality. As the development of autonomous artificial moral agents becomes closer to being realized, I suspect that this book will only gain in importance."--Metapsychology. (shrink)
Recently, there has been a resurgence of interest in general, comprehensive models of human cognition. Such models aim to explain higher-order cognitive faculties, such as deliberation and planning. Given a computational representation, the validity of these models can be tested in computer simulations such as software agents or embodied robots. The push to implement computational models of this kind has created the field of artificial general intelligence (AGI). Moral decision making is arguably one of the most challenging tasks for computational (...) approaches to higher-order cognition. The need for increasingly autonomous artificial agents to factor moral considerations into their choices and actions has given rise to another new field of inquiry variously known as Machine Morality, Machine Ethics, Roboethics, or Friendly AI. In this study, we discuss how LIDA, an AGI model of human cognition, can be adapted to model both affective and rational features of moral decision making. Using the LIDA model, we will demonstrate how moral decisions can be made in many domains using the same mechanisms that enable general decision making. Comprehensive models of human cognition typically aim for compatibility with recent research in the cognitive and neural sciences. Global workspace theory, proposed by the neuropsychologist Bernard Baars (1988), is a highly regarded model of human cognition that is currently being computationally instantiated in several software implementations. LIDA (Franklin, Baars, Ramamurthy, & Ventura, 2005) is one such computational implementation. LIDA is both a set of computational tools and an underlying model of human cognition, which provides mechanisms that are capable of explaining how an agent’s selection of its next action arises from bottom-up collection of sensory data and top-down processes for making sense of its current situation. We will describe how the LIDA model helps integrate emotions into the human decision-making process, and we will elucidate a process whereby an agent can work through an ethical problem to reach a solution that takes account of ethically relevant factors. (shrink)
Carruthers argues that an integrated faculty of metarepresentation evolved for mindreading and was later exapted for metacognition. A more consistent application of his approach would regard metarepresentation in mindreading with the same skeptical rigor, concluding that the “faculty” may have been entirely exapted. Given this result, the usefulness of Carruthers’ line-drawing exercise is called into question.
One of the earliest issues in cognitive ethology concerned the meaning of animal signals. In the 1970s and 1980s this debate was most active with respect to the question of whether animal alarm calls convey information about the emotional states of animals or whether they “refer” directly to predators in the environment (Seyfarth, Cheney, & Marler 1980; see Radick 2007 for a historical account), but other areas, such as vocalizations about food and social contact, were also widely discussed. In the (...) 1990s, ethologists largely came to a consensus that such calls were “functionally referential” (Evans & Marler 1995) even if they did not satisfy all the semantic requirements imposed by philosophers of language. More recently, though, it has been argued that ethologists should eschew the concept of reference and return to a focus on the affective aspects of animal communication (Rendall & Owren 2002). We propose to take a new look at this debate in the light of recent developments in the philosophy of language under the heading of “Neo-Expressivism” (Bar-On 2004). This view provides two different senses.. (shrink)
In the last decade it has become en vogue for cognitive comparative psychologists to study animal behavior in an ‘integrated’ fashion to account for both the ‘innate’ and the ‘acquired’. We will argue that these studies, instead of really integrating the concepts of ‘nature’ and ‘nurture’, rather cement this old dichotomy. They combine empty nativist interpretation of behavior systems with blatantly environmentalist explanations of learning. We identify the main culprit as the failure to take development seriously. While in some areas (...) of biology interest in the relationship between behavior and development has surged through topics such as extragenetic inheritance, niche construction, and phenotypic plasticity, this has gone almost completely unnoticed in the study of animal behavior in comparative psychology, and is frequently ignored in ethology too. The main aims of this paper are to clarify the relationship between the concepts of learning, experience, and development, and to investigate whether and how all three concepts can be usefully deployed in the study of animal behavior. This will require the full integration of the psychological study of behavior into biology, and of the idea of learning into a wider concept of experience. We lay out how, in a systems view of development, learning may just appear as one among many processes in which experience influences behavior. This new synthesis should help to overcome the age-old dualism between innate and acquired. It thereby opens up the possibility of developing scientifically more fruitful distinctions. (shrink)
The idea that reasoning is a singular accomplishment of the human species has an ancient pedigree.Yet this idea remains as controversial as it is ancient. Those who would deny reasoning to nonhuman animals typically hold a language-based conception of inference which places it beyond the reach of languageless creatures. Others reject such an anthropocentric conception of reasoning on the basis of similar performance by humans and animals in some reasoning tasks, such as transitive inference. Here, building on the modal similarity (...) theory of Vigo [J Exp Theor Artif Intell, 2008 (in press)], we offer an account in which reasoning depends on a core suite of subsymbolic processes for similarity assessment, discrimination, and categorization. We argue that premise-based inference operates through these subsymbolic processes, even in humans. Given the robust discrimination and categorization abilities of some species of nonhuman animals, we believe that they should also be regarded as capable of simple forms of inference. Finally, we explain how this account of reasoning applies to the kinds of transitive inferences that many nonhuman animals display. (shrink)
Our goal in this paper is to provide enough of an account of the origins of cognitive ethology and the controversy surrounding it to help ethicists to gauge for themselves how to balance skepticism and credulity about animal minds when communicating with scientists. We believe that ethicists’ arguments would benefit from better understanding of the historical roots of ongoing controversies. It is not appropriate to treat some widely reported results in animal cognition as if their interpretations are a matter of (...) scientific consensus. It is especially important to understand why loose references to “cognitive ethology” by philosophers can signal ignorance of the field to scientists who are more deeply immersed in the relevant literature. Understanding the variety of approaches to cognitive phenomena in animals is essential if such capacities are to form the foundation of scientifically-informed ethical reasoning about animals. (shrink)
The implementation of moral decision making abilities in artificial intelligence (AI) is a natural and necessary extension to the social mechanisms of autonomous software agents and robots. Engineers exploring design strategies for systems sensitive to moral considerations in their choices and actions will need to determine what role ethical theory should play in defining control architectures for such systems. The architectures for morally intelligent agents fall within two broad approaches: the top-down imposition of ethical theories, and the bottom-up building of (...) systems that aim at goals or standards which may or may not be specified in explicitly theoretical terms. In this paper we wish to provide some direction for continued research by outlining the value and limitations inherent in each of these approaches. (shrink)
Ethicists have commonly appealed to science to bolster their arguments for elevating the moral status of nonhuman animals. I describe a framework within which I take many ethicists to be making such appeals. I focus on an apparent gap in this framework between those properties of animals that are part of the scientific consensus, and those to which ethicists typically appeal in their arguments. I will describe two different ways of diminishing the appearance of the gap, and argue that both (...) of them present challenges to ethicists seeking a firm scientific basis for their claims about the moral status of animals. I argue that more clarity about the role of appeals to science by applied ethicists leads to questions about the effectiveness of such appeals, and that these questions might best be pursued empirically. (shrink)
As the above quote clearly highlights, it is the responsibility of researchers and research supervisors to be certain that their research staff and students assistants are very familiar with all of the ethical principles and current standards relevant to the research they are conducting. Indeed, they must take an active role in being certain that their research staff and students complete appropriate training in these ethical principles and standards, and how they apply them to the research context in which they (...) are working. This is especially important in areas in which there may be physical harm such as chronic pain research. (shrink)
In this paper we1 assess the potential for research on nonhuman animals to address questions about the phenomenology of painful experiences. Nociception, the basic capacity for sensing noxious stimuli, is widespread in the animal kingdom. Even rel- atively primitive animals such as leeches and sea slugs possess nociceptors, neurons that are functionally specialized for sensing noxious stimuli (Walters 1996). Vertebrate spinal cords play a sophisticated role in processing and modulating nociceptive signals, providing direct control of some motor responses to noxious (...) stimuli, and a basic capacity for Pavlovian and instrumental conditioning (Grau et al. 1990; Grau 2002). Higher brain systems provide additional layers of association, top-down control, and cognition. In humans, at least, these higher brain systems also give rise to the conscious experiences that are characteristic of pain. What can be said about the experiences of other animals who possess nervous systems that are similar but not identical to humans? (shrink)
In this paper we argue that there is much to learn about “wild justice” and the evolutionary origins of morality – behaving fairly – by studying social play behavior in group-living mammals. Because of its relatively wide distribution among the mammals, ethological investigation of play, informed by interdisciplinary cooperation, can provide a comparative perspective on the evolution of ethical behavior that is broader than is provided by the usual focus on primate sociality. Careful analysis of social play reveals rules of (...) engagement that guide animals in their social encounters. Because of its significance in development, play may provide a foundation of fairness for other forms of cooperation that are advantageous to group living. Questions about the evolutionary roots of cooperation, fairness, trust, forgiveness, and morality are best answered by attention to the details of what animals do when they engage in social play – how they negotiate agreements to cooperate, to forgive, to behave fairly, and to develop trust. We consider questions such as why play fairly? Why did play evolve as it has? Does “being fair” mean being more fit? Do individual variations in play influence an individual’s reproductive fitness? Can we use information about the foundations of moral behavior in animals to help us understand ourselves? We conclude that there is likely to be strong selection for cooperative fair play because there are mutual benefits when individuals adopt this strategy and group stability may also be fostered. Numerous mechanisms have evolved to facilitate the initiation and maintenance of social play, to keep others engaged, so that agreeing to play fairly and the resulting benefits of doing so can be readily achieved. (shrink)
A principal goal of the discipline of artificial morality is to design artificial agents to act as if they are moral agents. Intermediate goals of artificial morality are directed at building into AI systems sensitivity to the values, ethics, and legality of activities. The development of an effective foundation for the field of artificial morality involves exploring the technological and philosophical issues involved in making computers into explicit moral reasoners. The goal of this paper is to discuss strategies for implementing (...) artificial morality and the differing criteria for success that are appropriate to different strategies. (shrink)
Peter Carruthers argues that phenomenal consciousness might not matter very much either for the purpose of determining which nonhuman animals are appropriate objects of moral sympathy, or for the purpose of explaining for the similarities in behavior of humans and nonhumans. Carruthers bases these claims on his version of a dispositionalist higher-order thought (DHOT) theory of consciousness which allows that much of human behavior is the result of first-order beliefs that need not be conscious, and that prima facie judgments about (...) the importance of consciousness are due to confabulation. We argue briefly against his claim that 'the moral landscape can remain unchanged' even if all or nearly all nonhuman animals are taken to be incapable of conscious experience. We then show how a first-order representational (FOR) theory of consciousness might be defended against Carruthers' criticisms. Finally, we argue that Carruthers' appeal to confabulation undercuts his own arguments for an evolutionary explanation for consciousness, posing a greater epiphenomenalist threat to his DHOT theory than he concedes. (shrink)
Which nonhuman animals experience conscious pain?1 This question is central to the debate about animal welfare, as well as being of basic interest to scientists and philosophers of mind. Nociception—the capacity to sense noxious stimuli—is one of the most primitive sensory capacities. Neurons functionally specialized for nociception have been described in invertebrates such as the leech Hirudo medicinalis and the marine snail Aplysia californica (Walters 1996). Is all nociception accompanied by conscious pain, even in relatively primitive animals such as Aplysia, (...) or is it the case, as some philosophers continue to maintain, that conscious experiences are the exclu- sive province of human beings? What philosophical and scientific resources are presently available for assessing claims lying between these extremes? (shrink)
Seven chimpanzees in twenty-seven experiments run over the course of ﬁve years at his University of Louisiana laboratory in New Iberia, Louisiana, are at the heart of Daniel Povinelli’s case that chimpanzee thinking about the physical world is not at all like that of humans. Chimps, according to Povinelli and his coauthors James Reaux, Laura Theall, and Steve Giambrone, are phenomenally quick at learning to associate visible features of tools with speciﬁc uses of those tools, but they appear to lack (...) cognitive access to forces and other invisible causal features of those tools. Povinelli’s chimps appar- ently rely on a trial-and-error strategy to learn whether a particular tool is suitable for a particular task, and and having mastered one task they appear unable to generalize to other tasks on the basis of tool properties that are not directly visible. Thus, for instance, Povinelli’s research subjects did not immediately recognize that a tool that had been demonstrated to be non- rigid would be unsuitable for dragging a piece of food towards them. When presented with a choice between a rigid, T-shaped “rake” that they had used many times previously and a rake with non-rigid arms, Povinelli and Reaux found, over the course of eight trials, that their chimps chose the non-rigid rake as frequently as they chose the rigid one (experiment 9, chapter 7). (shrink)
There once was an ugly duckling. Except he wasn’t a duckling at all, and once he realized his error he lived happily ever after. And there you have an early primer from the animal literature on the issue of misrepresentation -- perhaps one of the few on this topic to have a happy ending. Philosophers interested in misrepresentation have turned their attention to a different fairy tale animal: the frog. No one gets kissed in this story and the controversial issue (...) of self-recognition is avoided. There are simply some scientifically established facts about ways to get a frog to stick out its tongue. (Who would want to kiss a frog under those conditions, anyway?) Some frogs, it seems, are fairly indiscriminate about sticking out their tongues. Not just flies, but a whole slew of other things will go down the hatch if propelled at just the right velocity and range through a frog’s visual field, provoking a tongue-flicking response. Fortunately for us all, frogs seem to be a bit more discriminating about whom they will kiss. At first sight, the frog’s tongue-flicking response seems like an ideal starting point for those who wish to promote evolutionary or "teleological" theories of intentional content. The signals passed from the frog’s retina to the frog’s brain were undoubtedly honed by the deaths of untold millions of insects snagged by countless generations of amphibians. Those amphibian ancestors whose eyes generated signals that were more 1 reliable guides to the location of food in the environment did better at propagating their genes, all other things being equal, than their cohorts whose eye to brain signals were less reliable. The teleosemanticist identifies the content of frogs’ intracranial signals in terms of the environmental conditions that historically corresponded to successful tongue-flicking, namely the presence of frog food -- typically flies -- in tongue-flicking range. And their descendants live happily ever after. But this would not be a fairy tale unless there were something to pose a credible threat to this happy ending.. (shrink)
The close kinship between humans, chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans is a central theme among participants in the debate about human treatment of the other apes. Empathy is probably the single most important determinant of actual human moral behavior, including the treatment of nonhuman animals. Given the applied nature of questions about the treatment of captive apes, it is entirely appropriate that the close relationship between us should be highlighted. But the role that relatedness should play in ethical theory is less (...) clear. To the extent that legal and regulatory challenges to keeping apes in captivity are likely to be based on principles of theory, it is important to understand what roles evolutionary theory can play in deriving such principles. The development of ethically correct policies for captivity of animals will depend on taking into account both species-specific and individual differences in the ways that individuals perceive and conceptualize the spaces in which they live, and the choices with which they are presented. A fully evolutionary approach to cognition, a cognitive ethology, that is not just limited to the great apes or to primates is the best hope we have for understanding such perceptions and conceptions. (shrink)