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Nonhuman empathy

Matt Jones jonesmat at ohsu.edu
Thu Feb 18 16:54:49 EST 1999


In article <36CC614E.EF8145BA at mich.com> Michael Edelman, mje at mich.com
writes:
>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.
>

The fallacy is in thinking that we can't know anything about what the
turtle's thinking unless we have a running dialogue, in English, with the
turtle. This is too rigid and unreliable a rule to apply even between
human beings. 

It's obvious that we and the turtle share a lot of _physical_ 
behavioural states: we both eat, we both mate, we both run for cover when
threatened. Why is it such a leap to say that we and the turtle both get
hungry, get horny and get scared? 


Matt Jones



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