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Griffin's concession , p.

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If he means total dependence there is no longer any reason to make use of mentalism in biological explanation I am inclined merely to delete it [the mental realm] from biological explanation, because it is an entirely private phenomenon, and biology must deal with the publicly demonstrable. Such criticisms reveal a lack of familiarity with developments in contemporary philosophy of mind.

The idea that dependence of the mind on physical facts entails its eliminability is of course untenable given the availability of token-identity theories of mind. For the same reason, dualism does not follow from the ineliminability of mentalistic explanations. Arguments against cognitive ethology that depend on the philosophically contentious notion of the privacy of mental phenomena are an similarly shaky grounds.

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Although modern "neo"-behaviorists are comfortable attributing some relatively simple internal states to animals, a lingering effect of behaviorism among many of them is the belief that that such states should either be operationally defined in terms of behavioral observations, or, if that is not possible, eliminated altogether from the science. Since there is not general agreement on how to define mentalistic notions, they are often disqualified on this basis.

There is also a residual suspicion that acceptance of concepts such as mind, belief, consciousness, and so on, automatically commits one to dualism - a view, of course, that philosophers rejected long ago. Philosophers, especially those used to dealing with philosophically-sophisticated cognitive psychologists, are sometimes surprised that such attitudes prevail in other corners of psychology departments, as well as being widespread among behavioral biologists. Probably we philosophers have only ourselves to blame for not having made the lessons arising from the demise of positivism widely accessible.

It is now generally accepted among philosophers of science that theories are not strictly logical constructions from pure observations, because there is a complex interplay between theory and observation with each playing important roles in the scientific process. Accordingly, theories that make reference to unobservable theoretical entities may be justified by inference to the best explanation, and there is no particular reason to treat mental states differently from the "unobservables" of any other science.

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Some of the most virulent attacks on cognitive ethology can thus be seen to be based on discredited views about the relationship between mind and body, and about the relationship between theory and evidence. But, to balance the equation, some philosophers have shown themselves to be equally uneducated about animal behavior. More sophisticated treatments of cognitive ethology have depended upon close collaboration between philosophers and ethologists. Cognitive ethology is somewhat unusual in that it has seen significant interdisciplinary collaboration between ethologists and philosophers.

In fact the connection between cognitive ethology and philosophy predates Griffin's first book. Interactions between Griffin and his Rockefeller University colleague Thomas Nagel directly stimulated Griffin to write his book about animal awareness. Given Griffin's expertise in bats, it can hardly be counted a coincidence that Nagel's seminal paper, published in in the Journal of Philosophy , is titled "What is it like to be a bat? Because Nagel's paper predates Griffin's work, it is not surprising that it has nothing to say about cognitive ethology per se , but the paper does make a general claim about the inability of objective science to deal with the essentially subjective nature of conscious experience.


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If Nagel's argument is sound, then of course it applies as much to human psychology or neuroscience as to cognitive ethology. A full discussion of this dispute lies outside the scope of this article, but Allen suggests some reasons for doubt about the scope of Nagel's arguments with respect to cognitive ethology. More on the relevance of Nagel's arguments to cognitive ethology is in section 5 below.

The first time a philosopher's attention was directed specifically towards cognitive ethology can perhaps be traced to Daniel Dennett's presence at workshop in Dahlem, West Germany, in that was convened by Donald Griffin. Dennett subsequently wrote about cognitive ethology in the journal Behavioral and Brain Sciences in an article that featured plovers and vervets. Hauser's doctoral advisors were Cheney and Seyfarth, and he was conducting research on communication between vervet monkeys at their Kenyan research site. Jamieson was responsible for putting Bekoff and Allen in touch with each other in and organizing a symposium on cognitive ethology at the Philosophy of Science Association meetings in which brought these authors together along with Carolyn Ristau.

Subsequent collaboration between Bekoff and Allen led to a number of papers and the book Species of Mind. The issues confronted have been substantially shaped by trends in the philosophy of mind over the last two decades of the twentieth century. The next two sections reflect these trends. During the s, there was a high degree of philosophical interest in the relationship of folk psychology to scientific psychology.

Philosophers of mind have tended to identify intentionality in the technical sense introduced by 19th C. German psychologist Franz Brentano - see Allen as the core feature of the mental states featured in folk-psychological explanations of behavior.

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It is not surprising, then, that much of the earliest philosophical work on the philosophy of cognitive ethology focused on the appropriateness of intentional notions for cognitive ethology. It is equally unsurprising that in his paper, Dennett urged his instrumentalist "intentional stance" upon cognitive ethologists. He recommends the use of intentionalistic terms as an "interim" a way for ethologists to mark places where behavioristic explanations of animal behavior are unsatisfactory, but neurological explanations are still lacking.

Cognitive ethology is not, of course, immune to the general objections that philosophers of mind have mounted against using intentional notions for scientific purposes.

But part of Dennett's skepticism about the longevity of intentionalistic psychology stems from his views about the indeterminacy of content attributions, particularly when it comes to specifying the contents of animal beliefs. Well before anyone had heard of cognitive ethology, in his book, Dennett argued that we cannot say precisely what an animal may be thinking because we can only use our concepts to specify the content, but animals lack those concepts.

Thus, for instance, we can't say that Fido wants a bone because he doesn't have our concept of bone.

A similar argument is made by Stich. Allen analyzes these arguments and criticizes them for not providing a principled reason for thinking that precise specification of animal concepts is impossible. Dennett's strategy, for instance, is to consider a few particular sentences to see whether they express the content of the animal's state.

After several sentences have been tried and rejected, it is then claimed that no sentence will suffice. Alexander Rosenberg relies on very similar arguments to those of Dennett and Stich in his critique of attempts to bring the study of social play into evolutionary biology.


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In particular, Rosenberg claims that intentionally and functionally defined categories are inappropriate candidates for evolutionary explanation. Folk-psychological notions are unsuitable for the prediction and explanation of nonhuman animal behavior because: animal behavior can be predicted and explained with scientific precision using folk-psychological notions only if mental content can be determinately specified for nonhuman subjects; but, mental content cannot be determinately specified for nonhuman animal subjects.

So, Cognitive ethology should abandon folk psychology for the purposes of predicting and explaining nonhuman animal behavior. Other sciences, including other cognitive sciences, do not have as their goal the complete prediction of individual behavior. This is because for very many complex systems, science often is capable of explaining but not predicting their behavior. So, there is no reason why cognitive ethology should be held to the standard of predicting individual behavior.

But even if such a goal were to be maintained, there are reasons for thinking that philosophers have been unnecessarily pessimistic about the possibility of describing the precise contents of animal mental states. The philosophical arguments have typically been based on imagined cases of belief attribution that are poorly grounded in the real abilities of animals. For instance Stich claims that we can't attribute the concept of squirrel to a dog because the dog couldn't discriminate squirrels from artificial replicas of squirrels which he calls "furrels".

Greater familiarity with the actual capacities of animals as provided by the empirical findings of cognitive ethologists might help prevent philosophers from basing arguments on such limited views of animal capacities.

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Heyes argues that the naturalistic observations favored by cognitive ethologists are unable to support the attribution of intentional states to animals because such observations lack necessary experimental controls. For instance, chicks continue to approach a food source in a situation where a feeding apparatus has been rigged to retreat as they approach, but to become accessible if they retreat from it.

In particular, they question the assumption that all the relevant learning takes place inside the experimental situation alone, when in fact, animals have the opportunity to learn much that is relevant to explaining their behavior outside that situation. Whatever the long term prospects for intentional notions in all branches of psychology and cognitive science, it is clear that a number of authors believe cognitive ethology faces special difficulties in their application. Whether such special difficulties make the scientific employment of intentional, folk-psychological notions in cognitive ethology merely more difficult than in the other cognitive sciences or actually impossible remains controversial.

Aside from the questions about its scientific status and methodology, cognitive ethology is also of interest to philosophers because of its obvious relevance to more general issues in the philosophy of mind. Among these, the nature of consciousness has become perhaps the hottest topic in philosophy of mind in the last decade. The topic of animal consciousness is often raised by philosophers as a proving ground for the various theories of consciousness that are on offer, and it also of interest to philosophers concerned with the ethical treatment of animals.

However, despite Griffin's positioning of consciousness as a central issue for cognitive ethology, there is very little actual empirical research directly on this topic. This is particularly true with respect to the qualitative, subjective, or phenomenological aspects of consciousness that have been of most concern to philosophers. It is noteworthy that Nagel simply assumes that there is something it is like to be a bat and focuses his skepticism on the impossibility of our knowing what it is like. Might cognitive ethology be able to do more, however, to meet Nagel's challenge regarding the character of bat experience?

Approximately species of bats do not echolocate at all, and among the species of bats that do use echolocation about 30 species from the genus Rousettus in the suborder Megachiroptera , and all of the approximately species in the suborder Microchiroptera there are at least three kinds of echolocation constant frequency, frequency sweep, and short burst , and they differ with respect to whether outgoing ultrasound is produced orally or nasally.

Each of these differences has consequences for the sensory ecology of the animals, affecting the kinds of discriminations that can be made, the kinds of obstacles that can be avoided, and the kinds of prey that can be hunted. Presumably there is no one thing it is "like to be a bat," any more than there is one thing it is "like to be a primate". Of course, philosophical opinion varies greatly on the question of whether such details can help, but at least we ought to avoid appeals to our intuitions about how hard it is to imagine what it might be like to be a member of another species when such appeals rely on our profound ignorance of the relevant biology.

Another area of philosophical interest to which cognitive ethology might be expected to contribute is the topic of "theory of mind". Much of the most recent work on whether nonhuman animals attribute mental states to each other is being conducted on chimpanzees by researchers who would not consider themselves to be cognitive ethologists and whose methods certainly fall outside the normal range of cognitive ethology. Whatever one thinks of the instrumentalism implied by Dennett's "intentional stance", his introduction of a Gricean hierarchy of intentional states to cognitive ethologists has had a significant impact on they way ethologists and comparative psychologists approach questions about theory of mind in animals see Cheney and Seyfarth In the Gricean hierarchy, zero-order systems lack intentional states.

First-order systems represent only non-intentional states of affairs. Second-order systems are capable of representing first-order intentional states, and so on. Ascension of this hierarchy has come to be widely regarded as a significant evolutionary event.