Minimal Minds

Bryce Huebner

in The Oxford Handbook of Animal Ethics

Published in print October 2011 | ISBN: 9780195371963
Published online May 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

Minimal Minds

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This article starts out by observing that we often speak in a loose manner as if beings all the way down to viruses have something like beliefs, desires, and intentions. It sets aside these ways of speaking to see how far down the chain of being there might be true mentality—minimal mindedness. Profound theoretical issues confront attempts to provide a general strategy for distinguishing mentality from witless and mechanical behavior. The discussion tries to establish the minimal conditions. It argues that the explanatory resources provided by contemporary cognitive science provide compelling reasons for thinking that even invertebrates such as cockroaches, termites, and honeybees possess genuine cognitive capacities. It recognizes that many may be skeptical of this claim, but supports the idea that invertebrates possess minimal minds in a number of ways.

Keywords: minimal mindedness; mentality; mechanical behavior; invertebrates

Article.  14456 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Moral Philosophy ; Philosophy of Science

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