Abstract
Although dogs are almost totally incapable of symbolic behaviour, they can hope, for a dog's behaviour can manifest not only a desire for something but varying degrees of expectation that it will get what it desires; but since they are almost totally incapable of symbolic behaviour, nothing they do can indicate that they both desire something and yet are certain that they will not get it. So the suggestion that dogs entertain idle wishes is, apparently, vacuous, i.e. untestable, or nonsensical. Nonetheless, we can imagine situations in which we would be tempted to say of a dog that it had an idle wish, but since idle wishes so often and typically require language, we should be reluctant to impute it.
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DOI 10.1080/00201747008601589
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