The Evolution of Intelligence: Are Humans the Only Animals with Minds?

The Evolution of Intelligence: Are Humans the Only Animals with Minds?

The Evolution of Intelligence: Are Humans the Only Animals with Minds?

The Evolution of Intelligence: Are Humans the Only Animals with Minds?

Synopsis

Human beings have long nurtured conceits about their exalted place in the universe, but recent scientific advances challenge their claims to any unique gifts of rationality and expose weaknesses in outmoded, mechanistic models of consciousness. Through a fascinating exploration of the mental abilities of species ranging from bacteria to mountain gorillas, noted science philosopher James Fetzer updates and improves these obsolete conceptualizations and offers an important new theory of intelligence - one grounded in evolutionary theory and by which machines can be "intelligent" without possessing minds.

Excerpt

Human beings have nurtured many conceits about the exalted place of humanity within the scheme of things entire: that the Earth is the center of the universe or, if not that, then at least that the Sun orbits the Earth or, if not that, then at least that humans are the rational animals or, if not that, then at least that humans were created as the only animals with minds. the pilgrimage from Aristotle to Copernicus to Freud has been a revelation, where the cosmic insignificance of the human species has been further magnified by the relative unimportance of our solar system as a tiny feature of the Milky Way, which is merely one of billions of galaxies made up of billions of stars.

The progressive displacement of the species from its central position at the center of the universe, at the center of the solar system, or even as distinctively rational animals has been brought about by developments within science, especially advances in psychology as well as in physics and astronomy. Anyone today who proclaimed that the Earth was the center of the universe, that the Sun revolved around the Earth, or that humans were invariably rational would be widely regarded as displaying ignorance of the classic discoveries associated with the names of Kepler, of Newton, and of Freud. Yet a tendency remains to assume that humans are still the only animals with minds.

This book provides a systematic exploration of alternative theoretical hypotheses and recent empirical evidence with the objective of demonstrating that this conceit also should be relegated to the dustbin of intellectual history. the principal difficulties that have confronted investigations of animal mentality have revolved around the development of an adequate conception of mentality, on the one hand, and the emergence of a suitable methodology for investigating mental phenomena, on the other. Antiquated Cartesian conceptions of consciousness as the object and introspection as the method have severely constrained scientific studies of animal mind.

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