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Minimal Mindreading and Animal Cognition

In: Grazer Philosophische Studien
Author: Anna Strasser1
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Human and non-human animals are social beings, both have social interactions. The ability to anticipate behavior of others is a fundamental requirement of social interactions. However, there are several ways of how agents can succeed in this. Two modes of anticipation, namely mindreading and behavior-reading, shape the animal mindreading debate. As a matter of fact, no position has yet convincingly ruled out the other. This paper suggests a strategy of how to argue for a mentalistic interpretation as opposed to a behavioral interpretation. The first step suggests considering a pluralistic approach in order to allow for shortcomings such as not having a natural language. Second, a critical examination of the principle called Morgan’s Canon will show that this principle cannot be used as a final argument to rule out mentalistic approaches. Finally, the author argues that the setting of current experiments is responsible for the indistinguishability of mindreading versus behavior-reading and she suggests alternative experimental designs.

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