Rational Animals? Paperback – 12 Jan 2006
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this volume offers a useful overview of current thinking about animal rationality from a variety of academic perspectives. It provides an invaluable point of entry for students new to the area, while offering researchers an insight into the perspectives of those whose approaches to animal rationality are grounded in disciplines other than their own. (Applied Cognitive Psychology, Vol 21)
Rational Animals? is thoughtful, thought-provoking, informative and fascinating and will do a great deal to further interdisciplinary understanding and informed debate. (Journal of Consciousness Studies, Vol 13, No 12)
This is an excellent, informative book on animal rationality. (Doody's Notes)
To what extent can animal behaviour be described as rational? What does it even mean to describe behaviour as rational? This book focuses on one of the major debates in science today - how closely does mental processing in animals resemble mental processing in humans. It addresses the question of whether and to what extent non-human animals are rational, that is, whether any animal behaviour can be regarded as the result of a rational thought processes. It does this with attention to three key questions, which recur throughout the book and which have both empirical and philosophical aspects: What kinds of behavioural tasks can animals successfully perform? What if any mental processes must be postulated to explain their performance at these tasks? What properties must processes have to count as rational? The book is distinctive in pursuing these questions not only in relation to our closest relatives, the primates, whose intelligence usually gets the most attention, but also in relation to birds and dolphins, where striking results are also being obtained. Some chapters focus on a particular species.They describe some of the extraordinary and complex behaviour of these species - using tools in novel ways to solve foraging problems, for example, or behaving in novel ways to solve complex social problems - and ask whether such behaviour should be explained in rational or merely mechanistic terms.Other chapters address more theoretical issues and ask, for example, what it means for behaviour to be rational, and whether rationality can be understood in the absence of language. The book includes many of the world's leading figures doing empirical work on rationality in primates, dolphins, and birds, as well as distinguished philosophers of mind and science. The book includes an editors' introduction which summarises the philosophical and empirical work presented, and draws together the issues discussed by the contributors.
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This book pursues these questions both theoretically and empirically. The contributors include ' distinguished philosophers, as well as scientists who report and reflect on their work with such impressive animals as Kanzi the bonobo, Betty the New Caledonian crow, Sheba the chimpanzee, Sweetie-Pie the scrub jay, Akeakamai the bottlenose dolphin, and Alex the African Grey parrot. Studies of different species are brought together for comparison, and philosophical arguments about rationality are brought into contact with empirical evidence of the behavioural and cognitive capacities of animals. Sections of the volume focus on various types and levels of rationality, on rational versus associative processes, on metacognition and metarepresentation, on social behaviour and cognition, on mind reading versus behaviour reading, and on behaviour and cognition in symbolic environments. An editorial introduction provides an analytical framework for the issues discussed by contributors and a comparative summary of the chapters.
Contributors: Elsa Addessi, Colin Allen, Jose Luis Bermudez, Sarah T Boysen, Josep Call, Nicola S Clayton, Richard Connor, Gregory Currie, Anthony Dickinson, Fred I Dretske, Nathan J Emery, William M Fields, Louis M Herman, Cecilia Heyes, Susan Hurley, Alex Kacelnik, Janet Mann, Ruth G Mikan, Matthew Nudds, David Papineau, Irene M Pepperberg, Daniel Povinelli, Jolle Proust, Duane M Rumbaugh, E. Sue Savage-Rumbaugh, Sara J Shettleworth, Kim Sterelny, Jennifer E Sutton, Michael Tomasello, Alain J-P Tschudin, Elisabetta Visalberghi, Jennifer Vonk
Are any non-human animals rational? What issues are we raising when we ask this question? Are there different kinds or levels of rationality, some of which fall short of full human rationality? Should any behaviour by non-human animals be regarded as rational? What kinds of tasks can animals successfully perform? What kinds of processes control their performance at these tasks, and do they count as rational processes? Is it useful or theoretically justified to raise questions about the rationality of animals at all? Should we be interested in whether they are rational? Why does it matter?
The contributors to this volume approach these questions from a variety of theoretical and empirical perspectives. Contributors include distinguished philosophers as well as scientists, who report and reflect on their work with such impressive animals as Kanzi the bonobo, Betty the New Caledonian crow, Sheba the chimpanzee, Sweetie-Pie the scrub jay, Akeakamai the bottlenose dolphin, and Alex the African grey parrot. The volume aims both to bring leading empirical work with different species together for compar¬ison, and to bring philosophical arguments about rationality into contact with empirical evidence of the behavioural and cognitive capacities of animals.
Section 1.1 of this chapter provides a landscape of theoretical issues and distinctions that bear on attributions of rationality to animals; it can be read independently of the synopses of chapters, which follow in the remaining sections. These summarize the arguments of the chapters in each of the volume's six parts, on: types and levels of ration¬ality (Section 1.2); rational versus associative processes (Section 1.3); metacognition
(Section 1.4); social behaviour and cognition (Section 1.5); mind reading and behaviour reading (Section 1.6); and behaviour and cognition in symbolic environments (Section 1.7). The introduction as a whole aims to provide a substantive and self-standing survey of the topic of animal rationality that is accessible to students and researchers in different disciplines, including philosophy and various sciences...
Why, then, does it matter whether animals are rational? It matters both for our understanding of other animals and of ourselves. We live with animals, we interact with them and use them in our daily lives, and share a planet with them. Yet we see ourselves as discontinuous from them in important ways. Rationality is one of the main hooks on which human distinctiveness and specialness has been hung. We treat rationality as having intrinsic worth, in addition to sentience. If a creature can feel pain, we feel we ought to avoid making it suffer unnecessarily, but we may not on that account grant it the additional intrinsic value and dignity associated with rationality. Understanding whether and in what ways non-human animals can be rational may prompt us to rethink human rationality, our relations to other animals, and our own irrationalities. Perhaps our rationality is more piecemeal, less theoretical, more embedded in and conditioned by our environments than we realize. The possibility of explaining relatively complex animal behaviour by appealing to a variety of relatively simple, domain-specific processes may lead us to re-evaluate our presuppositions about human rationality and to ask whether we are operating a double standard in assessing human vs. animal rationality (see and cf. Shettleworth 1998, 563). On a disaggregated view of rationality, there is no single boundary distinguishing the human mind from other animal minds in respect of rationality; rather, there are various specific dimensions of comparison. Making comparisons across species and with human beings in this way elucidates the extent to which the abilities of different animals and of humans can be explained by appealing to similar kinds of processes, and in what sense these processes are rational. Should this rethinking debunk human rationality? Not necessarily. Rather, it may help us to understand it better, and to understand the continuities as well as the discontinuities between human and other animals.