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Nonhuman empathy

Jason Ebaugh ebau0002 at tc.umn.SPAMNOT.edu
Thu Feb 18 17:17:36 EST 1999


I made no claim that turtles mental states are "identical to humans".
My turtle behaves differently when he is seen versus when he is not
seen. I find that the explination based on the assumption that turtles
have mental states has more explantive power than other assumptions.
One of which that I particularly like to beat on would be classical
behaviorism.

Now the empathy part. It seems that some who will grant that
non-humans have mental states for some reason hold on to the
IDEOLOGICAL PREMISE that non-humans can definitly not infer mental
states in others. I really don't know what motivates such people to
believe this. If you one accepts mental states in non-humans, then why
is it such a special case of being able to read others mental states? 

With the assumption that the turtle has a mental state, he displays
behavior that can be interpreted as him "knowing" that I, like him,
see. There are other interpretation to be sure, there always are.
I see much of the objections to the "empathetic turtle" interpretation
to based on ideology and not fact nor evidence.


Michael Edelman <mje at mich.com> wrote:
> 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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