, Volume 51, Issue 1, pp 537–544

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


  • Colin Allen
    • Department of PhilosophyTexas A & M University

DOI: 10.1023/A:1005545425672

Cite this article as:
Allen, C. Erkenntnis (1999) 51: 537. doi:10.1023/A:1005545425672


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.

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© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1999