Cognitive Ethology: The Minds of Other Animals: Essays in Honor of Donald R. Griffin

By Donald R. Griffin; Carolyn A. Ristau | Go to book overview

2
FROM FOLK PSYCHOLOGY TO COGNITIVE ETHOLOGY

Colin G. Beer Rutgers University


ABSTRACT

Cognitive ethology assumes a kind of commonsense theory of mind, which has been described as folk psychology. This essay discusses philosophical versions of this theory as they pertain to cognitive ethology and arguments against them such as Stephen Stich's case against belief and the eliminative materialism of Patricia and Paul Churchland. It also comments on the work of Ruth Millikan who has used a biological notion of function in defense of a naturalistic theory of mind, which retains intentionality and the propositional attitudes of folk psychology. The case argued is that the philosophical issues about the nature of mind sampled here have a profound bearing on the prospects for cognitive ethology.


INTRODUCTION

People often attribute consciousness and a wide range of mental states to animals. Many would say that it is only common sense to do so. However, this common sense view raises a number of questions of sorts that cause students of animal behavior to have mental cramps when they try to come seriously to grips with animal mentality. These questions include the following: How do we and can we know about mental states in animals? To what extent does absence of human-style language restrict the possibility of animal intentionality? To what extent are animal mental states like or unlike human mental phenomena? To what extent does confusion about the

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