Introduction: You may have noticed that the title of this essay is ambiguous. Asking what animals think could be part of an inquiry into animal public opinion, focusing perhaps on such questions as what apes think about the Endangered Species Act or whether frogs prefer Tom Waits to Leonard Cohen. Or if you read the right punctuation into the title you might see it as an exclamation of surprise: “What! Do animals think?” What I am actually concerned with in this essay is how we should think about specifying exactly what it is that a particular animal thinks on a particular occasion. Some would say that I am concerned with the problem of content as it applies to non-human animals. The first response to the question of what animals think may be to say that they think thoughts. This is harmless, so long as we do not succumb to the temptation of reading psychology or ontology directly off of the language. However, it is downright harmful if, after assimilating thinking to having a thought, we go on to suppose that having a thought is the same as having a propositional attitude. At the outset, anyway, I want to leave open a wide range of possibilities including whether animal thinking implies having propositional attitudes; and if it does, the meaning, status, and nature of these propositional attitudes.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Arts and Humanities(all)