, Volume 51, Issue 1, pp 537-544

First online:

Animal Concepts Revisited: the use of Self- Monitoring as an Empirical Approach

  • Colin AllenAffiliated withDepartment of Philosophy, Texas A & M University

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Many psychologists and philosophers believe that the close correlation between human language and human concepts makes the attribution of concepts to nonhuman animals highly questionable. I argue for a three-part approach to attributing concepts to animals. The approach goes beyond the usual discrimination tests by seeking evidence for self-monitoring of discrimination errors. Such evidence can be collected without relying on language and, I argue, the capacity for error-detection can only be explained by attributing a kind of internal representation that is reasonably identified as a concept. Thus I hope to have shown that worries about the empirical intractability of concepts in languageless animals are misplaced.