• creativesoul
    2.9k
    This is yet again a question that has been skirted around in several recent threads. It deals with mental content. What's going on within our own minds, thoughts, and beliefs? What do our mental ongoings consist of? What are they existentially dependent upon? Can we know this? If so... how? Furthermore, does our knowledge of this allow us to draw true conclusions regarding what's going on in the 'minds' of non-linguistic creatures?

    If someone would like to help me sharpen this into a good debate question/statement, and lay out the parameters for a debate, then I would be happy to argue in the affirmative.
  • Pseudonym
    1k


    You'll need to define 'know' and 'how' It think before this question can get anywhere.

    Are we going to accept a model capable of prediction as being 'knowledge', or are we going to go down the rabbit-hole of requiring even more of that model before we accept it under the term?

    The how, is even more problematic. Would a causal explanation be an answer to the question 'how'? If we knew that a Lion's mind processed stimuli in a certain way, is that a satisfactory description of how a Lion's mind works?
  • Cuthbert
    216
    When the dog barks up the unoccupied tree where it saw a squirrel run yesterday I imagine that it's thinking about squirrels. I can tell you that I imagine what it's thinking but of course the dog can't confirm my imaginings. Sometimes I say to the dog 'Squirrel' when there is no squirrel and the dog looks confused. I explain to the dog that this is just the same as barking up the tree that has no squirrel in it. The dog looks more confused. Animal welfare dept has been informed but so far no case to answer.
  • Michael
    7.1k
    FYI, this is in the Debate Proposals category. @creativesoul is asking if anyone would like to argue against him in a formal debate.

    This isn't the place to actually discuss the topic. I'll delete any further comments like the above two.
  • creativesoul
    2.9k


    Hopefully, we can sharpen the question here without getting into the topic. I mean, if need be?
  • Michael
    7.1k
    You can seek to clarify the position(s) to be discussed, but to actually start debating it (informally) is off-topic really, and best suited for one of the other categories. But then if you're going to do that, is there any point in a formal debate?
  • creativesoul
    2.9k


    I'm with you.

    Psuedonym's comment seems to be attempting to help sharpen the debate question, not actually discuss it. Cuth doesn't look serious. Cava is awesome in all the ways cava is awesome and if no one takes me up here, I'll just start a thread about it. I'd rather debate it though.
  • Michael
    7.1k
    Psuedonym's comment seems to be attempting to help sharpen the debate question, not actually discuss it.creativesoul

    Yep, you're right. I was hasty in copy-pasting my reply from the previous debate proposal.
  • StreetlightX
    2.7k
    Perhaps you need to set out a positive thesis about how 'linguistic minds' work (what is meant and entailed by the term 'linguistic minds'), then set the debate over whether or not, given that positive thesis, we can know how 'non-lingusitic' minds work. A yes or no question perhaps. I don't know what that positive thesis would be or look like, but maybe something to work with.
  • NKBJ
    316
    Perhaps you need to set out a positive thesis about how 'linguistic minds' work (what is meant and entailed by the term 'linguistic minds')
    I second this. First you'd have to define who has a linguistic mind: with the recent developments in primatology, we know that apes are capable of learning hundreds of words in sign language. Dogs can learn dozens. Cats at least a few. Pigs, rats, dolphins, and most other animals as well. Linguists for a while were moving the goal posts of what counts as linguistic ability purposefully to exclude non-human animals. So yes, the question would have to be in multiple parts: what is a linguistic mind? Who has one? And what, if anything, can we know about the minds of those who are non- or pre-lingual (as in the case of human babies or fetuses)?
  • fdrake
    1.1k
    What would a sufficient description of 'how a mind works' in general be? I imagine that there would need to be a few elements, will make some kind of map here. Stuff applicable to us:

    (1) capacity for sense
    (1a) what are bearers of sense? capacity to make sense bearers
    (2) some kind of locality, people dwell in contexts, contexts are meaningful. Is this meaning the same as sense? Is it a necessary condition for sense?
    (3) many dimensional sensory manifold, vision/touch/taste/smell/hearing/temperature/pressure/kinaesthesia/others, possible couplings (synaesthesia)
    (4) aspects of volition
    (4a) coupling of volition to sensory manifold generating affordances, affordances similar to ours necessary to produce an understandable mind?
    ...

    I can imagine an argument between two people over something like von Uexkull's umwelten, and whether and how much humans can grasp of other umwelten using our capacity for generalisation and 'adequation of the intellect and its object'; primary properties and intrinsic relations make sense for humans, would they make sense for Wittgenstein's lion? What about the lion's beetle in a box?

    What about for a tick with a much lower dimensional sensory manifold (from Wiki):

    Thus, for the tick, the umwelt is reduced to only three (biosemiotic) carriers of significance: (1) The odor of butyric acid, which emanates from the sebaceous follicles of all mammals, (2) The temperature of 37°C (corresponding to the blood of all mammals), (3) The hairy topography of mammals.

    What are our limits for understanding the umwelten of other species? "If a lion spoke, we could not understand what he said" & private language argument vs a thesis of radical translation and understanding:

    The affordances of the environment are what it offers the animal, what it provides or furnishes, either for good or ill. The verb to afford is found in the dictionary, the noun affordance is not. I have made it up. I mean by it something that refers to both the environment and the animal in a way that no existing term does. It implies the complementarity of the animal and the environment.

    what does the private language argument foreclose from the understanding of other species' umwelten? How does our 'signs all the way down' mind apprehend a mind which 'bottoms out quickly in the world'?

    Can see something interesting in this general area, though I have no idea if you and someone else would want to argue about it.
  • creativesoul
    2.9k
    Are we going to accept a model capable of prediction as being 'knowledge', or are we going to go down the rabbit-hole of requiring even more of that model before we accept it under the term?Pseudonym

    I would argue in the negative if the debate question were "Is a model capable of predicting non-linguistic animal behaviour equialent to knowledge of how a non-linguistic mind works".
  • creativesoul
    2.9k
    The how, is even more problematic. Would a causal explanation be an answer to the question 'how'? If we knew that a Lion's mind processed stimuli in a certain way, is that a satisfactory description of how a Lion's mind works?Pseudonym

    The "how" part of the OP was about method. How do, could, or would we acquire such knowledge.
  • creativesoul
    2.9k
    Perhaps you need to set out a positive thesis about how 'linguistic minds' work (what is meant and entailed by the term 'linguistic minds'), then set the debate over whether or not, given that positive thesis, we can know how 'non-lingusitic' minds work. A yes or no question perhaps. I don't know what that positive thesis would be or look like, but maybe something to work with.StreetlightX

    Yes. That's a fine idea. I may just do that.
  • creativesoul
    2.9k
    I second this. First you'd have to define who has a linguistic mind: with the recent developments in primatology, we know that apes are capable of learning hundreds of words in sign language. Dogs can learn dozens. Cats at least a few. Pigs, rats, dolphins, and most other animals as well. Linguists for a while were moving the goal posts of what counts as linguistic ability purposefully to exclude non-human animals. So yes, the question would have to be in multiple parts: what is a linguistic mind? Who has one? And what, if anything, can we know about the minds of those who are non- or pre-lingual (as in the case of human babies or fetuses)?NKBJ

    Again. Yes. Well put.
  • creativesoul
    2.9k


    As always... good stuff drake. Much to consider...
  • Pseudonym
    1k


    Then I think more work needs first to be done on what would constitute 'knowledge' in this respect, otherwise I think the debate will simply dissolve into one about knowledge. Both sides will bring exactly the same arguments only one side will claim this constitutes knowledge and the other that it doesn't.
  • Pseudonym
    1k
    The "how" part of the OP was about method. How do, could, or would we acquire such knowledge.creativesoul

    Sorry, I should have been clearer, the 'how' I was referring to was the one in the question title... how non-linguistic creature's minds work. What would be a satisfactory answer to the question 'how?' here. I could, for example say "by storing and exchanging neural states". Does that answer the question how they work?
  • creativesoul
    2.9k


    No worries. I didn't realize that, or think about it like that, but certainly could have... perhaps should have. It is these types of situations that turn me off to philosophy though, to be frank...

    What do non-linguistic creatures mental content consist of?

    That is, I suppose, what I'm aiming at.
  • creativesoul
    2.9k
    Then I think more work needs first to be done on what would constitute 'knowledge' in this respect, otherwise I think the debate will simply dissolve into one about knowledge. Both sides will bring exactly the same arguments only one side will claim this constitutes knowledge and the other that it doesn't.Pseudonym

    That sounds like a debate, but it's not about the target, it's about us. I can envision a healthy debate regarding whether or not what we claim to know about non-linguistic creatures' thoughts, and/or belief counts as knowledge. It would involve focusing upon the justification for our claims.

    I could envision one side arguing for what they claim is knowledge, and the other arguing against it, rather than two sides arguing for their own notion while denying the others'
  • creativesoul
    2.9k
    So, given all the superb suggestions, perhaps it's best to focus upon what our thought and belief consists of. That needs to be established prior to expanding the notion to see if it is rightfully applicable to claim that non-linguistic creatures' thought and belief consists of the same. A taxonomy of our thought and belief that is established in terms of complexity seems the first step. That would allow us to then be able to consider if and/or which types would even be possible for a non-linguistic creature to form, have, and/or hold...
  • creativesoul
    2.9k
    I could actually envision a fantastic debate where the participants debate over the method itself. What is the 'best' method for endeavoring to seek knowledge of non-linguistic creatures' mental ongoings(thought and belief)?
  • Sapientia
    5.8k
    You'll need to define 'know'...Pseudonym

    Yeah, that was pretty much my reaction, too.

    ...and 'how'...Pseudonym

    Yeah, 'how a mind works' could be answered in a very large number of different ways.

    Then I think more work needs first to be done on what would constitute 'knowledge' in this respect, otherwise I think the debate will simply dissolve into one about knowledge. Both sides will bring exactly the same arguments, only one side will claim this constitutes knowledge and the other that it doesn't.Pseudonym

    Yeah, I can see that happening.

    The question, as worded in the title, is ambiguous. I reckon I could argue either way based on different interpretations.
  • Pseudonym
    1k
    I could actually envision a fantastic debate where the participants debate over the method itself. What is the 'best' method for endeavoring to seek knowledge of non-linguistic creatures' mental ongoings(thought and belief)?creativesoul

    Yes, I think that would be an interesting debate, but of course the first argument would be about the appropriate way to measure 'best' and you'd be lucky in the topic of animal minds got a look in.

    This is the trouble with philosophy done on a forum like this (although it's endlessly fascinating to read). In academic philosophy, very few, if any, papers are written defending Idealism against Realism, or transcendentalism against naturalism. Mostly, it is people who agree on the project they're working on, be that naturalism, Idealism... whatever, and they're debating the best way to progress that argument.

    I think the only way to have a meaningful debate is to restrict entry to those of a particular philosophical persuasion. You'd have to specify exactly which framework, which philosophical project you're working on and then debate how to do that job.

    As an example, I'm a fairly hard Naturalist (if that hadn't become obvious already), so one of the challenges of the naturalist project is consciousness, how to reconcile what we subjectively experience with a naturalistic understanding of the material cause. So I might frame a debate about animal mind as - Within Naturalism, how can we best describe the way animals' minds work to further explain conscious experiences? You can replace naturalism with whatever your preferred philosophical project happens to be.
  • creativesoul
    2.9k
    Yes, I think that would be an interesting debate, but of course the first argument would be about the appropriate way to measure 'best' and you'd be lucky in the topic of animal minds got a look in.Pseudonym

    What counts as the best method would be the debate. It would involve arguing for a criterion(a set of necessary and sufficient conditions) - which when met - counts as thought, belief, and/or some kind of meaningful mental ongoings... meaningful, that is, to the creature...


    This is the trouble with philosophy done on a forum like this (although it's endlessly fascinating to read). In academic philosophy, very few, if any, papers are written defending Idealism against Realism, or transcendentalism against naturalism. Mostly, it is people who agree on the project they're working on, be that naturalism, Idealism... whatever, and they're debating the best way to progress that argument.

    I think the only way to have a meaningful debate is to restrict entry to those of a particular philosophical persuasion. You'd have to specify exactly which framework, which philosophical project you're working on and then debate how to do that job.

    I disagree. Meaningful debates can be of those from different philosophical persuasions.


    As an example, I'm a fairly hard Naturalist (if that hadn't become obvious already), so one of the challenges of the naturalist project is consciousness, how to reconcile what we subjectively experience with a naturalistic understanding of the material cause. So I might frame a debate about animal mind as - Within Naturalism, how can we best describe the way animals' minds work to further explain conscious experiences? You can replace naturalism with whatever your preferred philosophical project happens to be.

    I find no need to frame the debate in such a way that automatically restricts the participants' linguistic framework to any particular school of thought. Rather, since the topic is about the mental ongoings of non-linguistic creatures, one's background(philosophical bent) doesn't matter. If one has a good grasp of human mental ongoings, then it is not too difficult at all to apply this to non-linguistic animals and see how it all turns out. That is, consider if one's criterion for human mental ongoings is rightfully applicable to non-linguistic creatures'.

    That is the substantive debate.
  • creativesoul
    2.9k
    I'm not looking for someone who agrees with me. I'm looking for someone who does not, and can show me where I go wrong... and vice-versa.
  • Caldwell
    150
    You can organize the parameters this way:

    Given:
    Assumption:
    Question: (in a manner that two debating teams can take opposite sides.)

    Also, you may want to allow multiple-member teams - not one on one.
    So, pick your partner, then the other team will have two members as well.
  • Sapientia
    5.8k
    I kind of don't really get it. There's already a field known as animal cognition. It has a history, a method, a vast amount of research has been conducted, and all that jazz. One could enrol at certain universities and take a course on it.

    Creative's opponent in debate must pretend that this is all some kind of sham, and that we in fact don't know shit?

    Well, I suppose it is philosophy after all. I've been both a witness to, and participant in, debates which are far more absurd than the one being proposed here.
  • creativesoul
    2.9k
    :yum:

    I may just be looking to argue against current convention. I may be the one claiming that the conventional notion of animal cognition is wrong.
  • Harry Hindu
    1.2k
    This is yet again a question that has been skirted around in several recent threads. It deals with mental content. What's going on within our own minds, thoughts, and beliefs? What do our mental ongoings consist of? What are they existentially dependent upon? Can we know this? If so... how? Furthermore, does our knowledge of this allow us to draw true conclusions regarding what's going on in the 'minds' of non-linguistic creatures?creativesoul
    You mean like infants? Mothers seem to know what their infants want, though new mothers have more trouble than experienced mothers in understanding what infants want. Why do you think that is? Using a language is just one means of communicating. We are communicating all the time whether we know it or not - simply by our behavior.
  • Sapientia
    5.8k
    That may be interesting. In that case, I think the greater burden would rest with you.

    As for myself, I find the amount of work required to seriously engage in formal debate unappealing.
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