Nicholas Porot (Rabat)
“Minds without Spines”
Friday, March 5th, 14-16h
Abstract : While mentality is clearly widespread in animals, the reach of conceptual thought remains unclear. In this paper, I argue at least one arthropod species possesses concepts, so conceptual thought’s reach is very broad. Other arguments in favor of arthropod concepts (Camp 2007, Carruthers 2009) have focused on the cognitive maps bees deploy in foraging. This cleaves such concepts from the sort of concepts humans possess : Maps lack the syntactic structure of human thought. But recent evidence from the numerical cognition of honeybees suggests they can cardinally order natural numbers (including zero) up to six (Howard et al. 2019b). Since zero cannot be represented by any straightforward form of analogue magnitude representation, or by subitizing, this supports symbolic representation of zero in honeybees. Since cardinally ordering the numerosities requires combination of representations, the non-zero numerosities must be represented by symbols, too. This result suggests bees may interface symbols with cognitive maps in foraging. It helps resolve explanatory stalemates elsewhere in comparative psychology and expands the explanatory role of concepts in our understanding of cognition.
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