Mind Matters Reporting on Natural and Artificial Intelligence

TagAbstractions

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Groupe de Bonobos autour d'un hôtel à insectes

Can Animal Minds Rival Humans Under the Right Circumstances?

Are we just not being fair to animals, as some researchers think?

In 2007, Sue Savage-Rumbaugh, a psychologist and primatologist , published a paper in the Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science with a remarkable citation: Sue Savage-Rumbaugh, Kanzi Wamba, Panbanisha Wamba, and Nyota Wamba, “Welfare of Apes in Captive Environments: Comments on, and by, a Specific Group of Apes,” Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science 10:1 (2007): 7–19. What is remarkable about the paper is not the text but the authorship statement. Kanzi, Panbanisha, and Nyota Wamba are not co-author colleagues—they’re apes, bonobos to be specific. Dr. Savage-Rumbaugh (right) is a controversial scientist who believes that animals have intellectual powers that can, under the right circumstances, rival the human intellect. She included her ape subjects as co-authors on the paper because…

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brown monkey macro photography

Do Animals Truly Grieve When Other Animals Die?

Yes, but “death” is, in some ways, an abstraction so there are only some things they understand about it

Anthropologist Barbara J. King, author of How Animals Grieve (2014), has written a thought-provoking essay on the difficulties that COVID-19 has created for people coping with the death of a loved one because they are not allowed conventional grieving methods. Although it is titled “Animal Grief Shows We Aren’t Meant to Die Alone,” King’s essay turns out to be appropriately skeptical of ambitious claims about animal grief. She writes, There is a popular perception that some animals, particularly elephants and crows, participate in their own kinds of funerals. But there’s little solid evidence—at least, so far—for this kind of community ritual. Elephants may occasionally cover a dead companion’s body with leaves or branches, but the meaning and intent of this…

Blue watercolor triangle

A simple triangle can disprove materialism

Conventional descriptions of material processes do not help much when we are trying to account for abstract thought
Philosopher Edward Feser notes that there is a kind of mismatch between concepts and ideas on the one hand, which are abstract and completely general, and on the other hand, physical symbols and other material representations, which are always concrete, specific, and individual. Read More ›
Langzeit EEG

Do “forced thinking” seizures show that abstract thought is a material thing?

Epilepsy suppresses abstract thought, it does not evoke it
It’s worth noting that Wilder Penfield, (with Herbert Jasper, his neurologist colleague), was one of the first doctors to characterize forced thinking seizures and he asserted that there are no intellectual seizures. He understood that forced thinking seizures are not seizures of the intellect. Read More ›
Migräneanfall - Kopfschmerz

Do Epileptic Seizures Cause Abstract Thoughts?

A psychiatrist argues that “intellectual seizures” can occur

Seizures never evoke abstract thought. That is, if a seizure causes you to think about a triangle, it always causes you to imagine a particular triangle, not to define triangles abstractly.

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A cat looking up to the left

Study: Cats Do Recognize Their Names

They recognize them as signals but not as abstractions

It’s a sobering fact that the war on human exceptionalism makes nonsense of our ability to understand animals. If we start with the fact that a cat cannot understand abstractions like “my name” because he is not a reasoning creature, we can intuit that most cats can learn human sounds that make a difference to them anyway.

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