Decentering Anthropocentrisms: A Functional Approach to Animal Minds

Between the Species 18 (1) (2015)

Matthew Altman
Central Washington University
Anthropocentric biases manifest themselves in two different ways in research on animal cognition. Some researchers claim that only humans have the capacity for reasoning, beliefs, and interests; and others attribute mental concepts to nonhuman animals on the basis of behavioral evidence, and they conceive of animal cognition in more or less human terms. Both approaches overlook the fact that language-use deeply informs mental states, such that comparing human mental states to the mental states of nonlinguistic animals is misguided. In order to avoid both pitfalls -- assuming that animals have mental lives just like we do, or assuming that they have no mental lives at all -- I argue for a functional methodological approach. Researchers should study animal cognition by identifying environmental inputs, the functional role of internal states, and behavioral outputs. Doing so will allow for cross-species comparisons in a way that the use of folk psychological terms does not.
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

Our Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 46,282
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

Does the Chimpanzee Have a Theory of Mind?David Premack & G. Woodruff - 1978 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 4 (4):515-629.
Philosophical investigations.Ludwig Wittgenstein & G. E. M. Anscombe - 1953 - Revue Philosophique de la France Et de l'Etranger 161:124-124.
The Case for Animal Rights.Tom Regan & Mary Midgley - 1986 - The Personalist Forum 2 (1):67-71.
The Animal That Therefore I Am.Jacques Derrida - 2002 - Fordham University Press.
Animal Liberation.Bill Puka & Peter Singer - 1977 - Philosophical Review 86 (4):557.

View all 37 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Animal Cognition: The Mental Lives of Animals. [REVIEW]L. Kemmerer - 2002 - Journal of Mind and Behavior 23 (3):317-320.
Subjectivity, Real Intentionality, and Animal Minds.Sara Jane Worley - 1991 - Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh
Animals, Consciousness, and I-Thoughts.Rocco J. Gennaro - 2009 - In Robert W. Lurz (ed.), The Philosophy of Animal Minds. Cambridge University Press. pp. 184--200.
Animal Minds, Skepticism and the Affective Stance.Elisa Aaltola - 2010 - Teorema: International Journal of Philosophy (2):69-82.
Problem zwierzęcej świadomości.Krzysztof Chodasewicz - 2009 - Studia Philosophica Wratislaviensia (2):67-79.
Animal Minds: A Non-Representationalist Approach.Hans-Johann Glock - 2013 - American Philosophical Quarterly 50 (3):213-232.
Why We Can’T Say What Animals Think.Jacob Beck - 2013 - Philosophical Psychology 26 (4):520–546.
Mindreading in the Animal Kingdom.José Luis Bermúdez - 2009 - In Robert W. Lurz (ed.), The Philosophy of Animal Minds. Cambridge University Press.


Added to PP index

Total views
15 ( #589,530 of 2,285,994 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
1 ( #833,345 of 2,285,994 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes

Sign in to use this feature