Animal Cognition Term Paper by Jay Writtings LLC

Animal Cognition
An exploration of the beliefs of Rene Descartes, Norman Malcolm, Stephen Stich and John Serle on the state of animal consciousness.
# 116365 | 2,029 words | 3 sources | APA | 2009 | US
Published on Sep 17, 2009 in Biology (Zoology) , Psychology (General) , Philosophy (General)

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This paper examines Norman Malcom's argument against Descartes' denial of mental life in animals. The paper explains that Malcolm believes that animals, like man, possess nonconceptional states of mind with conscious feelings and sensations, and therefore possess some kind of mental life. The paper also offers a brief look at Stephen Stich's perspective that it is impossible to know whether animals possess the mental process of believing. John Serle's assertion that animals do possess consciousness because they possess a causally relevant structure similar to man is also discussed.

Norman Malcolm's Perspective on Descarte's Concepts of Cognition
Stephen Stich's Dual Conclusion about Animal Cognition
John Serle's Concept of Causal Structures

From the Paper:

"Norman Malcolm (1972-1973) counters Rene Descartes' conception of thinking specifically as it relates to animals when he contends that there is a distinction between thinking and having thoughts (p. 14). Yet Malcolm's main premise is aligned with Descartes in that for an animal to have thoughts, it must possess language acquisition with an ability to express a proposition though language or conscious propositional thinking. Yet even though Malcolm's main premise is aligned with Descartes, Malcolm's conception of propositional thinking does not completely align with Descartes' Cartesian doctrine. Malcolm does not agree with Descartes' denial that animals do not have any mental life. Malcolm is only denying that animals, because of their lack of language, cannot frame propositions and be motivated to act from propositional content."

Sample of Sources Used:

  • Malcolm, N. (1972-1973). Thoughtless brutes. Proceedings and Addresses of theAmerican Philosophical Association, 46, 5-20.
  • Serle, J. R. (1994). Animal Minds. (Ed.), Midwest Studies in Philosophy, XIX (pp. 206-219).
  • Stich, S. P. (1979). Do animals have beliefs? Australasin Journal of Philosophy, 57 (1), 15-28.

Cite this Term Paper:

APA Format

Animal Cognition (2009, September 17) Retrieved May 27, 2023, from

MLA Format

"Animal Cognition" 17 September 2009. Web. 27 May. 2023. <>