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Part I - Appendix B: Do Apes Have a Theory of Mind? 
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Post Part I - Appendix B: Do Apes Have a Theory of Mind?
Part I - Appendix B: Do Apes Have a Theory of Mind?

Please use this thread for discussing Part I - Appendix B: Do Apes Have a Theory of Mind?, found on pages 69 through 74.



Sat May 02, 2009 12:58 am
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Post Is suggesting apes have a ToM against god?
Wikipedia defines theory of mind (ToM) as “the ability to attribute mental states—beliefs, intents, desires, pretending, knowledge, etc.—to oneself and others and to understand that others have beliefs, desires and intentions that are different from one's own.”

In some ways this is the holy grail of consciousness. To be only a tad flippant, I’m not so sure we humans can consistently do this. Yet it is what we judge the world by. It is this ability, surely, that is the famously touted “god’s likeness” -- our human “special gift?”

If so, does suggesting that apes (or any other non-human animal) have a ToM impinge upon the idea that god created humans (and only humans) in his/her image?

And if so, is this one reason that (subliminally or not) many people have such a hard time seeing humans as just another primate?


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Mon May 25, 2009 9:48 am
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Post Re: Is suggesting apes have a ToM against god?
MaryLupin wrote:
Wikipedia defines theory of mind (ToM) as “the ability to attribute mental states—beliefs, intents, desires, pretending, knowledge, etc.—to oneself and others and to understand that others have beliefs, desires and intentions that are different from one's own.”

In some ways this is the holy grail of consciousness. To be only a tad flippant, I’m not so sure we humans can consistently do this. Yet it is what we judge the world by. It is this ability, surely, that is the famously touted “god’s likeness” -- our human “special gift?”


"Attribute" is an attempt to evade the issue. We do on occasion perceive the inner life of others directly -- often with greater clarity than they perceive it themselves. And I am very sure that I cannot consistently do it.

In other contexts this "holy grail of consciousness" -- direct perception of character -- is called divination. BookTalk member Sakis Totlis has a free book on this ability we share with animals "The True Eye of the Tiger":

http://www.sakistotlis.gr/

Skip over GO TO: WEBRING and click on "The True Eye of the Tiger"

Unfortunately Sakis follows the tradition of divination as sortilege and neglects the objective signs that reveal inner life.



Mon May 25, 2009 1:13 pm
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Post Re: Is suggesting apes have a ToM against god?
Thomas Hood wrote:
"Attribute" is an attempt to evade the issue. We do on occasion perceive the inner life of others directly -- often with greater clarity than they perceive it themselves.


Thomas, could you please explain what you mean by this a little more? When you say we "perceive the inner life of others directly" are you thinking of an empirical mechanism like mirror neurons or are you speaking of something like being psychic?

Also what would you replace "attribute" with?


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Mon May 25, 2009 8:05 pm
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Post Re: Is suggesting apes have a ToM against god?
MaryLupin wrote:
Wikipedia defines theory of mind (ToM) as “the ability to attribute mental states—beliefs, intents, desires, pretending, knowledge, etc.—to oneself and others and to understand that others have beliefs, desires and intentions that are different from one's own.” In some ways this is the holy grail of consciousness. To be only a tad flippant, I’m not so sure we humans can consistently do this. Yet it is what we judge the world by. It is this ability, surely, that is the famously touted “god’s likeness” -- our human “special gift?”

If so, does suggesting that apes (or any other non-human animal) have a ToM impinge upon the idea that god created humans (and only humans) in his/her image? And if so, is this one reason that (subliminally or not) many people have such a hard time seeing humans as just another primate?

Mary, the ability to attribute mental states is not the mark of the difference between people and animals. Animals can attribute mental states and are very perceptive. The empathetic behaviour described by de Waal is evidence of a 'theory of mind' among primates. Where we differ from animals is the faculty of abstract thought, the ability to represent the nature of entities as concepts through language. The magnitude of the difference between human thought and the rudimentary language skills of apes could be seen as a difference of kind, rather than just a difference of degree.

Language mirrors the reality of the laws of physics, the nature of the cosmos and our understanding of history and culture. In humanity, the cosmos thinks itself as concept through language. We have evolved from stardust into entities who can imagine and describe objective facts about the universe.

If God is nature, human integrity requires accurate mirroring of nature, including understanding of the relation between humans and other primates. Language is the key point of difference between humans and animals. The 'imago dei', the Biblical idea that humanity is the image of God, is about our capacity to represent truth through abstract language rather than our ability to perceive mental states.

Robert



Mon May 25, 2009 9:27 pm
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Post Re: Is suggesting apes have a ToM against god?
MaryLupin wrote:
Thomas, could you please explain what you mean by this a little more? When you say we "perceive the inner life of others directly" are you thinking of an empirical mechanism like mirror neurons or are you speaking of something like being psychic?

Also what would you replace "attribute" with?


To attribute is to ascribe through a process of reasoning based on evidence. The panting is attributed to Picasso. The perception of the inner life of others is not a process of reasoning. I believe that such perception can be explained by the ideomotor effect (unconscious enactment) and the James-Lange theory of emotions (action triggers emotion).

Angry people make us angry. Depressed people make us depressed. We pick up on these inner states (attitudes and values) because what is within shows without, and we imitate unconsciously. Haven't you ever driven over a leaf and cringed at the thought of the leaf being crushed?



Mon May 25, 2009 9:39 pm
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