The authors of this book, a philosopher and a cognitive ethologist, approach their work from the perspective that many animals have minds and rich cognitive lives. They also believe that arguments about evolutionary continuity are as applicable to the study of animal minds and brains as they are to comparative studies of kidneys, stomachs, and hearts. Cognitive ethologists study the comparative, evolutionary, and ecological aspects of the mental phenomena of animals. Philosophy can provide cognitive ethology with an analytical basis for the attribution and assessment of cognition to nonhuman animals. Cognitive ethology can help philosophy to explain mentality in naturalistic terms by providing data on the evolution of cognition.
The heart of the book is this reciprocal relationship between philosophical theories of mind and empirical studies of animal cognition. All theoretical discussion is carefully tied to case studies, particularly in the areas of antipredator vigilance and social play, where there are many points of contact with philosophical discussions of intentionality and representation. The authors make specific suggestions about how to use philosophical theories of intentionality as starting points for empirical investigation of animal minds. They also discuss cognitive ethology's relevance to questions of ethics, as our beliefs about the mental lives of animals strongly affect our attitudes toward their moral status.
About the Authors
Colin Allen is Professor of Philosophy at Texas A&M University. He is the coauthor of Nature's Purposes (MIT Press, 1998), Species of Mind (MIT Press, 1997), and The Cognitive Animal (MIT Press, 2001).
Marc Bekoff is Professor of Environmental, Population, and Organismic Biology at the University of Colorado, Boulder.
"No one has ever contemplated what it is like to be a zucchini becausezucchini's lack minds. But we certainly have wondered what it is like tobe a predatory lion, or an echolocating bat or a brachiating monkey. Thatis because such animals presumably do have minds. But what kind of minds?Allen and Bekoff morph the disciplines of philosophy and ethology toprovide a lucid analysis of how animals think and what they think about.If you want a fun romp on the wild side of animal minds, read this book." Marc Hauser , Associate Professor, Departments of Anthropology andPsychology, Program in Neurosciences, Harvard University