Re: reading a book

From: Kate Distin (
Date: Thu 28 Apr 2005 - 07:02:29 GMT

  • Next message: Kate Distin: "Re: reading a book"

    Dace wrote:
    > 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
    > ability.

    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.
    > ted

    I suspect we're in agreement, given what I've said about meta-representation above?


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