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Academic & Professional Books  Organismal to Molecular Biology  Ethology

Rational Animals?

Edited By: Susan Hurley and Matthew Nudds
561 pages, no illustrations
Rational Animals?
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  • Rational Animals? ISBN: 9780198528272 Paperback Apr 2006 Usually dispatched within 2-3 weeks
  • Rational Animals? ISBN: 9780198528265 Hardback Apr 2006 Out of Print #156205
Selected version: £68.99
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About this book

To what extent can animal behaviour be described as rational? What does it even mean to describe behaviour as rational? This book focuses on one of the major debates in science today - how closely does mental processing in animals resembles mental processing in humans. It addresses the question of whether and to what extent non-human animals are rational, that is, whether any animal behaviour can be regarded as the result of a rational thought processes. It does this with attention to three key questions, which recur throughout the book and which have both empirical and philosophical aspects: What kinds of behavioural tasks can animals successfully perform? What if any mental processes must be postulated to explain their performance at these tasks? What properties must processes have to count as rational? The book is distinctive in pursuing these questions not only in relation to our closest relatives, the primates, whose intelligence usually gets the most attention, but also in relation to birds and dolphins, where striking results are also being obtained.

Some chapters focus on a particular species. They describe some of the extraordinary and complex behaviour of these species - using tools in novel ways to solve foraging problems, for example, or behaving in novel ways to solve complex social problems - and ask whether such behaviour should be explained in rational or merely mechanistic terms. Other chapters address more theoretical issues and ask, for example, what it means for behaviour to be rational, and whether rationality can be understood in the absence of language.

The book includes many of the world's leading figures doing empirical work on rationality in primates, dolphins, and birds, as well as distinguished philosophers of mind and science. The book includes an editors' introduction which summarises the philosophical and empirical work presented, and draws together the issues discussed by the contributors.


1. The questions of animal rationality: theory and evidence; PART I - TYPES AND LEVELS OF RATIONALITY; 2. Meanings of rationality; 3. Minimal rationality; 4. Styles of rationality; 5. Animal reasoning and proto-logic; 6. Making sense of animals; PART II - RATIONAL VERSUS ASSOCIATIVE PROCESSES; 7. Transitive inference in animals: reasoning or conditioned associations?; 8. Rational or associative: Imitation in Japanese quail; 9. The rationality of animal memory: complex caching strategies of western scrub jays; PART III - METACOGNITION; 10. Descartes' two errors: reason and reflection in the great apes; 11. Do animals know what they know?; 12. Metacognition and animal rationality; 13. Rationality, decentring, and the evidence for pretence in nonhuman animals; PART IV - SOCIAL BEHAVIOR AND COGNITION; 14. Folk logic and animal rationality; 15. Rationality in capuchin monkey's feeding behavior?; 16. Social cognition in the wild: Machiavellian dolphins?; PART V - MIND READING AND BEHAVIOUR READING; 17. Do chimpanzees know what others see - or only what they are looking at?; 18. We don't need a microscope to explore the chimpanzee's mind; 19. Belief attribution tasks with dolphins: what social minds can reveal about animal rationality; PART VI - BEHAVIOR AND COGNITION IN SYMBOLIC ENVIRONMENTS; 20. Intelligence and rational behaviour in the bottle-nosed dolphin; 21. Intelligence and rationality in parrots; 22. Effects of symbols on chimpanzee cognition; 23. Language as a window on rationality

Customer Reviews

Edited By: Susan Hurley and Matthew Nudds
561 pages, no illustrations
Media reviews
this volume offers a useful overview of current thinking about animal rationality from a variety of academic perspectives. It provides an invaluable point of entry for students new to the area, while offering researchers an insight into the perspectives of those whose approaches to animal rationality are grounded in disciplines other than their own. Applied Cognitive Psychology, Vol 21 Rational Animals? is thoughtful, thought-provoking, informative and fascinating and will do a great deal to further interdisciplinary understanding and informed debate. Journal of Consciousness Studies, Vol 13, No 12 This is an excellent, informative book on animal rationality. Doody's Notes
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