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Nonhuman empathy

Michael Edelman mje at mich.com
Thu Feb 18 13:51:58 EST 1999

Jason Ebaugh wrote:

> Michael Edelman <mje at mich.com> wrote:
> >Jason Ebaugh wrote:
> >> My turtle acts differently when I am looking at him versus when I am
> >> going about some other business in my room.
> >How could you tell?
> >>
> as I wrote in the original post, he runs and hides when he sees you
> see him. If you attention is paid to other things he stays out.

 Which brings me back to the original issue: You observe a behavior, and
you assign a meaning to it. But the meaning you assign assumes that the
turtle's possible mind states are identical to possible human mind states.
Now, perhaps turtles have mind states similar to those of humans. We have
no way of knowing this, as we cannot comunicate with turtles as well as we
can with humans- we have no common language. But that is exactly the point-
since we do not know, you are not justified in making that assumption, and
that is the heart of the anthropomorphic fallacy.

I hope I've made this clearer.
Michael Edelman     http://www.mich.com/~mje
Telescope guide:    http://www.mich.com/~mje/scope.html
Folding Kayaks:     http://www.mich.com/~mje/kayak.html

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