Dolphin Cognition and Behavior: A Comparative Approach

By Ronald J. Schusterman; Jeanette A. Thomas et al. | Go to book overview
mind and consciousness, it is doubtful that many students of primates would agree. I for one do not consider myself either a student of Mind in the abstract or of Behavior in the abstract, but a student of primates--or, to be more precise, chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) and saddle-back tamarins (Saguinus fuscicollis). To paraphrase Darwin (as cited by Smith, 1978), mind and behavior are functions of body. You must have some stable function to argue from.
SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS
The classification of behaviors (or animals) as either "intelligent" or not, and the further classification of various subclasses of intelligence is, at least in principle, a straight-forward taxonomic problem. It is philosophers and scientists more than laypersons who have muddied the problem, for that fairly reliable judgments can be made, and that these judgments correlate to some degree with the morphological and ecological classifications of classical biology, would seem obvious to almost anyone who approaches the problem with a sufficiently broad base of observational data and with a sufficiently "naive" naturalistic orientation. This might, of course, be folk taxonomy rather than scientific taxonomy, and it is unquestionably colored by our perception of kinship and by our prejudices against nonkin; but is is probably as good a starting point as any for more systematic and objective analyses.Among the many questionable dogmas which have impeded the analysis, probably the most prominent are these:
a. Anthropocentricism: All species are more or less like us, but of course all nonhumans are vastly "simpler" and less "sophisticated" than we are.
b. Cartesianism: The only mind I can know is my own; the best working attitude is to assume that other living beings (or at least nonhumans) are mindless robots.
c. "Quantism": Animals differ from one another in degree, not in kind. Qualitative differences are best understood as different "levels" in developmental or evolutionary advancement.
d. Nominalism: Intelligence is whatever it is that is being measured by the tests that are used by those who call themselves students of intelligence.
e. Intellectualism: To solve the problem of making a living in the world at large by such devices as "mere" instinct, "mere" conditioned responses or finding one's niche and sticking to it, rather than by reason, is a mark of biological inferiority.
f. Essentialism: A first and absolutely necessary step toward studying intelligence or any particular facet of it is to arrive at an airtight definition of its "essence"--ideally before watching one's animals.

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