Title page for ETD etd-04172008-144940


Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Heflin, Ashley Shew
Author's Email Address shew@vt.edu
URN etd-04172008-144940
Title What Dolphins Want: Animal Intentionality and Tool-Use
Degree Master of Arts
Department Philosophy
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Pitt, Joseph C. Committee Chair
Burian, Richard M. Committee Member
Goodrum, Matthew R. Committee Member
Keywords
  • non-human intentionality
  • tool-use
  • propositional content
  • material culture
  • animal intentionality
Date of Defense 2008-04-03
Availability unrestricted
Abstract
In this thesis, I argue that at least some animals have the sort of intentionality philosophers traditionally have only ascribed to humans. I argue for this through the examination of tool-use among New Caledonian crows and Bottlenose dolphins. New Caledonian crows demonstrate advanced tool-manufacture and standardization, while Bottlenose dolphins use social learning to a much greater degree than other animals. These two case studies fit nicely with many of the non-linguistic accounts of intentionality employed by philosophers.

This thesis is aimed at showing that our basic philosophical concept of intentionality leaves room for intentional behavior on the part of non-human animals. Descriptions of human behavior are often contrasted with that of “lower” animals. Many have taken rationality as the characteristic that separates us from animals, and our notions about the superiority of humans have been passed down through theology and philosophy. From Plato onward, philosophers have created divisions that put humanity in a special position relative to all other creatures. Neglecting a careful analysis of animal behavior in making these divisions does a disservice not only to the animals themselves, but also to humans. This thesis is an attempt to start pulling a thread of the discussion about the specialness of humans out for examination. Specifically, I examine the case of intentionality in the framework of the tool-related behaviors of crows and dolphins.

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