Animal Mindreading: A Defense of Optimistic Agnosticism

Mind and Language 29 (4):428-454 (2014)
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Abstract

We recommend the attitude of optimistic agnosticism toward animal mindreading: suspending acceptance until tests succeed in overcoming Povinelli's problem, and being optimistic about the feasibility of such tests. Fletcher and Carruthers argue for sufficient reasons to accept animal mindreading; we find their arguments unconvincing. Points they raise against the behavior-reading theory apply equally to mindreading theory, and their claims of greater parsimony are unfounded. Premature acceptance of mindreading could inhibit the search for innovative ways to overcome longstanding methodological problems. Optimistic agnosticism, in contrast, encourages the pursuit of approaches that can lead to important insights about animal social cognition

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