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Robert W. Lurz

Robert W. Lurz is Associate Professor in the Department of Philosophy at Brooklyn College, CUNY. He is the author of The Philosophy of Animal Minds.

Titles by This Author

The Debate over What Animals Know about Other Minds

Animals live in a world of other minds, human and nonhuman, and their well-being and survival often depends on what is going on in the minds of these other creatures. But do animals know that other creatures have minds? And how would we know if they do? In Mindreading Animals, Robert Lurz offers a fresh approach to the hotly debated question of mental-state attribution in nonhuman animals. Some empirical researchers and philosophers claim that some animals are capable of anticipating other creatures' behaviors by interpreting observable cues as signs of underlying mental states; others claim that animals are merely clever behavior-readers, capable of using such cues to anticipate others' behaviors without interpreting them as evidence of underlying mental states. Lurz argues that neither position is compelling, and proposes a way to move the debate, and the field, forward.

Lurz presents a new approach to understanding what mindreading in animals might be, offering a bottom-up model of mental-state attribution that is built upon cognitive abilities that animals are known to possess rather than on a preconceived view of the mind applicable to mindreading abilities in humans. Lurz goes on to describe an innovative series of new experimental protocols for animal mindreading research that overcome a persistent methodological problem in the field, known as the "logical problem" or "Povinelli's challenge." These protocols show in detail how various types of animals—from apes to monkeys to ravens to dogs—can be tested for perceptual state and belief attribution.