The authors of this book, a philosopher and a cognitive ethologist, approach their work from the perspective that many animals have minds and rich cognitive lives. They also believe that arguments about evolutionary continuity are as applicable to the study of animal minds and brains as they are to comparative studies of kidneys, stomachs, and hearts. Cognitive ethologists study the comparative, evolutionary, and ecological aspects of the mental phenomena of animals. Philosophy can provide cognitive ethology with an analytical basis for the attribution and assessment of cognition to nonhuman animals. Cognitive ethology can help philosophy to explain mentality in naturalistic terms by providing data on the evolution of cognition.
The heart of the book is this reciprocal relationship between philosophical theories of mind and empirical studies of animal cognition. All theoretical discussion is carefully tied to case studies, particularly in the areas of antipredator vigilance and social play, where there are many points of contact with philosophical discussions of intentionality and representation. The authors make specific suggestions about how to use philosophical theories of intentionality as starting points for empirical investigation of animal minds. They also discuss cognitive ethology's relevance to questions of ethics, as our beliefs about the mental lives of animals strongly affect our attitudes toward their moral status.
The fifty-seven original essays in this book provide a comprehensive overview of the interdisciplinary field of animal cognition. The contributors include cognitive ethologists, behavioral ecologists, experimental and developmental psychologists, behaviorists, philosophers, neuroscientists, computer scientists and modelers, field biologists, and others. The diversity of approaches is both philosophical and methodological, with contributors demonstrating various degrees of acceptance or disdain for such terms as "consciousness" and varying degrees of concern for laboratory experimentation versus naturalistic research. In addition to primates, particularly the nonhuman great apes, the animals discussed include antelopes, bees, dogs, dolphins, earthworms, fish, hyenas, parrots, prairie dogs, rats, ravens, sea lions, snakes, spiders, and squirrels.
The topics include (but are not limited to) definitions of cognition, the role of anecdotes in the study of animal cognition, anthropomorphism, attention, perception, learning, memory, thinking, consciousness, intentionality, communication, planning, play, aggression, dominance, predation, recognition, assessment of self and others, social knowledge, empathy, conflict resolution, reproduction, parent-young interactions and caregiving, ecology, evolution, kin selection, and neuroethology.
Within the natural sciences, only biologists take seriously teleological statements about design, purpose, and adaptive function. Some biologists claim that to understand the complex morphological and behavioral traits of organisms we must say what they are for, which is to give a teleological explanation of why organisms have them. Others argue that the theory of natural selection, in providing statistical explanations for the same phenomena, obviates any need for teleological thinking. If teleology cannot be eliminated from biology, it raises fundamental questions about the nature of biological explanation and about the relationship of biology to the rest of science.
To account for "Nature's purposes" is arguably the most important basic issue in the philosophy of biology. This volume provides a guide to the discussion among biologists and philosophers about the role of concepts such as function and design in an evolutionary understanding of life. All of the contributors examine biological teleology from a naturalistic perspective. Most of them maintain that teleological claims in biology both describe and explain something—but opinions vary as to exactly what is explained and how.
Contributors: Fred Adams, Colin Allen, Ron Amundson, Francisco J. Ayala, Mark Bedau, Marc Bekoff, John Bigelow, Walter J. Bock, Robert N. Brandon, Robert Cummins, Berent Enç, Carl Gans, Peter Godfrey-Smith, Stephen Jay Gould, Paul E. Griffiths, R. A. Hinde, Philip Kitcher, George V. Lauder, Ruth Garrett Millikan, S. D. Mitchell, Ernest Nagel, Karen Neander, Robert Pargetter, M. J. S. Rudwick, Gerd von Wahlert, Elisabeth S. Vrba, Larry Wright.
This collection of 24 readings is the first comprehensive treatment of important topics by leading figures in the rapidly growing interdisciplinary field of animal cognition. Taken together the essays provide the nucleus for an introductory course in animal cognition (cognitive ethology and comparative psychology), philosophy of biology, or philosophy of mind.
Selections are grouped in five sections: Perspectives on Animal Cognition; Cognitive and Evolutionary Explanations; Recognition, Choice, Vigilance, and Play; Communication and Language; and Animal Minds. Seventeen essays are reprinted from the authors much cited two-volume collection, Interpretation and Explanation in the Study of Animal Behavior. One essay taken from that book has been subsequently revised, and five additional essays are recent examples of critical thinking in cognitive ethology. The preface and final chapter, "Ethics and the Study of Animal Cognition," are new.