Descartes’ two errors: Reason and reflection in the great apes
Call (Josep)
Source: Hurley (Susan) & Nudds (Matthew) - Rational Animals?
Paper - Abstract

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Author’s Abstract

    Reasoning and reflection have traditionally been considered uniquely human attributes. Many animals, including the great apes, are often regarded as masters at making associations between arbitrary stimuli while at the same time they are rarely considered capable of reasoning and understanding the causality1 behind even simple phenomena. In this chapter, I defend a view opposite to this predominant position. Apes (and possibly other animals) are actually quite good at understanding and reasoning about certain physical properties of their world while at the same time they are quite bad at associating arbitrary stimuli and responses. In other words, if two stimuli nave a causal connection (as when food inside a shaken cup makes noise) apes perform better than if stimuli hold an arbitrary relation (as when an unrelated noise indicates food), even if the contingencies of reinforcement are the same. Neither a history of reinforcement based on traditional associationism nor a biological predisposition to respond differentially to certain stimuli combinations explains these results. Instead, I postulate that subjects reason and use logical operations based on inference by exclusion to locate the hidden food. In addition to the ability to reason about physical phenomena, I argue that apes (and other animals) also have some access to their understanding of the problem. More precisely, they have rnetacognitive abilities that allow them to know what they know or do not know. Thus reasoning and reflection may not be the bastions of human uniqueness, as Descartes once thought. Rather, these skills may have evolved (or coevolved) in other animals as well because they allowed them to solve problems in the world more efficiently.
  1. Introduction
  2. On Reasoning
    … 2.1 Shaken food inside a cup makes noise
    … 2.2 Solid food under a board occupies space
    … 2.3 Arbitrary cues are hard to learn
  3. Rationality by association, biological predisposition, or logic
    … 3.1 History of reinforcement
    … 3.2 Biological predispositions
    … Knowledge, logic, and inference
  4. On reflection
    … 4.1 Monkeys and dolphins know when they are uncertain
    … 4.2 Monkeys know when they have forgotten
    … 4.3 Apes know when they have not seen
  5. Arbitrary, causal, and symbolic connections
  6. Evolution of reasoning and reflection
  7. Conclusion


Part III: Metacognition, Chapter 10

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