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.
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.
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.
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.