Primates’ social intelligence overestimated: Primates groom others if afraid they’d lose fight
Now, the suggestion that we far too easily ascribe rational behavior to animals that don’t really deserve it has been made by Daniel Dennett for a very long time- the case he argues in Kinds of Minds– which I’m a commute away from finishing ( perhaps this evening). At the point I am in the book, he argues that the need for the understanding, or appreciation of the fact that an animal is doing something itself, or said another way, that an animal is AWARE that he is doing this ‘thing’ isn’t at all necessary to exhibit seemingly complex or seemingly intelligent behavior.
Dennett supports the idea that much of the behavior we see in our pets, dogs, cats, perhaps even primates, needs no centrally represented ‘awareness of the fact‘ that he is behaving as he is. Rather, it is just in effect, a complex behavioral ‘sub-routine’ that carries out a function totally unaware to the actor himself. Something qualitatively different than what we humans seem to be able to do however, in having an awareness about ourselves AND our actions in the world that is, as Dennett would say, centrally represented.
This ‘central representation‘, and what it means, is still rather foggy. At times Dennett seems to reinforce something like the notion of the Cartesian dualism he otherwise would oppose. For, the notion of a central anything, in spatial terms, suggests a location where everything comes together. However, I think I get what it is he wants to point to, despite the inadequacy of metaphor or language- which is the difference between human cognitive abilities, which we have to accept transcends the mere ‘first-order’ cognitive tasks. It may just be that he used this kind of language earlier on in his writings, and that his ideas have changed, which he admits they do evolve with time and published research. I’m more used to his recent writings than this ‘throw-back’ from the 90’s. I enjoyed his Sweet Dreams more recently,for instance. A sample of writing more than 10 years later than Kinds of Minds.
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