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November 20, 2011

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Peter Adamson

Great episode as always. Just wanted to point out that although Tim was right to say that recent philosophers haven't talked a lot about animal minds it was something of a big deal in ancient philosophy, with arguments over whether or not animals have rationality ("logos"). There's been good work on this recently by Richard Sorabji, Catherine Osborne and others.

Jim Vaughan

This interview really got to the heart of the question, wihich has so many ethical repercussions. I like the emphasis on empirical experiments to find out how animal think.

This would fit very nicely into a phenomenological perspective, e.g. of people like Merleau-Ponty, or Dan Zahavi. it seems from what you say that chimps are fully capable of per-reflective understanding, which allows them to "cope" with their world. However, what animals seem to lack is the ability for abstract representation or narrative construction, (except of a very primitive kind).

The error that many analytic philosophers and social scientists make, with their over-emphasis on language, is to ignore our non-linguistic per-reflective understanding of the world, proven by our ability to cope, and assume the "self" is just a linguistic narrative construct. Often the self is thereby represented as just a social construct (Gergen).

I think what you said in this interview has huge repercussions therefore not just for animals, but for how we understand our own "subjectivity" and "selfhood".

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