From: Kate Distin (email@example.com)
Date: Thu 28 Apr 2005 - 07:02:29 GMT
> It's difficult to define exactly where ordinary animal mentality leaves off
> and human mentality begins. As numerous researchers have demonstrated,
> chimps are aware of mentality. They reveal this awareness via the fact that
> they speculate as to what's on the minds of other chimps and then try to
> manipulate what these other chimps are thinking. Only the great apes appear
> to have this capacity. See *Machiavellian Intelligence: Social Expertise
> and the Evolution of Intellect in Monkeys, Apes and Humans* edited by Dick
> Byrne and Andrew Whiten, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1988.
The evidence from primate deception is open to interpretation. Whiten
has also pointed out (in his 1993 contribution to "Understanding Other
Minds", ed. Baron-Cohen et al.) that deception could be practised
without any real understanding of others' beliefs or intentions - so
long as the deceiver can think about and control what is perceptually
available to the deceived.
> Though apes can think about thinking, they don't seem to exploit this
> ability systematically. What distinguishes humans is not our basic capacity
> for meta-representation but simply the fact that we follow up on this
My use of the term "meta-representation" is inclusive of this follow-up
tendency. What sets humans apart is our ability to see the patterns in
a set of representations, to extract the patterns from that original set
and play with them in a new context. So we don't just count objects
(recognizing the common pattern between five apples, five people and five days), but we think about that pattern: we create new ways of representing it (Roman numerals, binary place-value, spoken language); we make the leap to inventing a symbol for the thing that happens when all the apples are eaten (zero); we wonder what would happen if we started counting backwards from zero instead of forwards . . . All the result of our unique meta-representational abilities.
> In essence, an ape is a body in conjunction with a mind. A human,
> on the other hand, is a mind in conjunction with a body. Apes, despite
> their mental self-awareness, are still animals, while humans have evolved
> into something fundamentally different-- Psychozoa as J. Huxley puts it.
> It's not enough to have reflexive mentality. Only when the locus of
> self-existence shifts from body to mind does a self-contained realm of
> culture open up, a mental environment in which memes may compete for
> dominance much as animals do in the physical environment.
I suspect we're in agreement, given what I've said about
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