Monday, November 30, 2015

RubiK's Octopus

via Mark Thoma The photograph illustrates a fascinating post which really is about How to do cephalapod philosophy And while on the topic of molluscs an old favorite

1 comment:

JimV said...

Some philosophers seem to be hung up on the question of how to determine whether "lower" animal behavior is the result of thinking and consciousness or is just some programmed, zombie-like activity.

When we see a human doing the same things there is no doubt in our minds, but the problem is exactly the same. I know I think, but how can I determine whether you are just a zombie?

It seems reasonable to me that, yes, animals with brains such as dogs and cats and octopi have consciousness and think, although some do it better than others.

On a PBS "Discovery" show years ago I saw an experiment where bananas were hung on a wire above a chimpanzee enclosure in a zoo, higher than the chimps could reach or jump. Two wooden crates and a broom were then placed in the enclosure. One of the chimps (a female) stacked the two boxes on top of each other under the bananas, climbed on top of them with the broom and was just able to reach the bananas and knock them off the the wire.

Then an animal behavior psychologist was shown the film - one who was a skeptic about animal consciousness. His reaction was that the experiment proved nothing. The chimp might have seen boxes stacked previously, and brooms used to reach up with previously and just repeated those behaviors in a rote fashion. To be conclusive, the experiment would have to involve tools which the chimps had never seen before, and doing an unfamiliar task with them.

I wondered whether the psychologist could pass such a test himself.