(ORDO NEWS) — We all understand that humans are significantly different from other animals. Of course, there are species with which we have more in common, there are those with which we are completely different, and yet very often people extol themselves, considering our genus to be incredibly special.
So what makes us so different from other animals? Many philosophers, both in the past and in the present, have pointed to our linguistic abilities. In their works, they argue that language not only allows us to communicate with each other, but also makes our mental life more complex. Some of these thinkers have come to the conclusion that creatures that have no language are not able to be rational, draw conclusions, or even have thoughts.
However, if we still accept these claims, what should we think of those animals that still have sound communication? Many species of birds are able to make “linguistic” sounds, and gorillas and chimpanzees are easily trained in sign language. Do these signs of communication indicate that these animals, like humans, are capable of complex cognitive processes?
Animal Language Philosophy
Philosophers usually deny the rationality of animals, explaining this by the fact that parrots and gorillas demonstrate simply “smart facial expressions.” Robert Brandom, a philosopher from the University of Pittsburgh, argued that if a parrot says “red” when it shows red objects, and “blue” when blue is shown, it does not prove that the bird understands the meaning of these words. According to Brandom, and many other philosophers, understanding the meaning of a word also requires knowledge of many other words and the connections that exist between them.
To make it clearer, we give a concrete example. So, imagine that you bring your little sister to the zoo for the first time and ask her, and where are the rabbits here, show me! If she succeeds, this is a sign that she understands what a rabbit is. However, now you want her to point to animals. If she points her finger at some stones on the ground, and not at rabbits or goats, the question arises: does she really understand what the word “rabbit” means? Indeed, the awareness of this word includes knowledge of the definition of “animal”, as well as the relationship between these two things. Therefore, if a parrot can tell us the color of an object, this does not necessarily mean that he understands what “color” is.
This leads us to a new question: what kind of behavior can demonstrate that a parrot or chimpanzee really understands the words? Philosopher Eric Nelson of the University of Dalhousie focuses on animal studies. He studies both empirical and theoretical work to answer these questions.
In his recent studies, he argues that testing the arithmetic abilities of animals can indicate their ability to understand and understand words.
A bit of arithmetic
In the late 1800s, the German mathematician and philosopher Gotlob Frege tried to prove that arithmetic is an objective science. In his work, “The Basic Laws of Arithmetic,” Frege begins with a logical analysis of what numbers are. He believes that the key to this is figuring out what is required to answer the question “how much is this?”
So, so far, everything is completely incomprehensible. What’s question? What for? Why? Let’s get it right. So, if you are handed a deck of cards and asked: “how much?”, Without specifying what the interlocutor wants to calculate, you are unlikely to understand what kind of answer he is seeking. If the question is specifically about cards, suits or decks, you can give an exact answer. “How many suits?” and you answer “four,” showing that you not only know how to count, but also understand what a suit is.
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