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A Natural History of Human Thinking and millions of other books are available for Amazon Kindle. A Natural History of Human Thinking Hardcover – February 17, In this much-anticipated book, Michael Tomasello weaves his twenty years of comparative studies of humans and great.
Table of contents

A Natural History of Human Morality. By Michael Tomasello. By Tamara T. Cambridge, Mass. Robert Wald Sussman. Michael Yudell. New York: Columbia University Press, Jan M. Ziolkowski, Trans. Harvard Studies in Medieval Latin, 1. Xvii, ; Black-and-White Figures and 1 Table. Rigg - - Speculum 85 2 Response to Commentators. Tomasello Michael - - Journal of Social Ontology 2 1 Howard Eiland and Michael W. Walter Benjamin: A Critical Life. By David P. Wheatland, Assisted by Barbara Carson.

Turner - - British Journal for the History of Science 5 1 In pursuing their joint goals structured by joint attention these early humans also recognized simultaneously different individual roles in the collaborative activity and different individual perspectives on their joint focus of attention. This dual-level structure of joint agency, I hypothesize, created a new form of practical activity spawning new types of experiences. In effect, collaborative activities pursued by a joint agent created for the individuals involved a shared world comprising distinct individual perspectives.

This structure means that collaborating individuals create, through their acts of voluntary joint attention, perspectival cognitive representations, a step on the road to linguistic aspectuality. In this middle step, early humans also begin to communicate cooperatively with one another in unique ways, that is, to inform one another of things helpfully, through the natural gestures of pointing and pantomiming Tomasello This created the basic ostensive-inferential structure of uniquely human communication in which a communicator intends that a recipient attend to something and infer something else as a result e.

This process involves recursive inferencing of the form: he intends that I attend to the crack in the branch and that I infer its relevance to my current activities. This process can go smoothly only if there is common ground between the communicative partners, for example, that cracked branches may break, and this may cause falling and injury, and injury is bad, and so forth. In sum, then, the early humans who began interacting with one another based on skills and motivations of joint intentionality engaged in acts of thinking based on i perspectival cognitive representations; ii recursive inferences; and iii social dyadically normative self-monitoring.

This was a radical break from the purely individual intentionality and thinking of other great apes. My account of modern human cultural beings is perhaps not so novel — though it, of course, makes some theoretical choices with which not everyone would agree — and so here I will be brief. As modern humans transitioned to culture they became group-minded creatures whose collective intentionality included all kinds of things not just in their personal common ground with other individuals, but in their cultural common ground with the group, such supraindividual things as cultural conventions, norms, and institutions.

Internalizing the voice of collective intentionality constituted something like normative self-monitoring or self-governance. My most immediate goal with this book was to provide an evolutionarily plausible and satisfactory explanation for the emergence of uniquely human cognition and thinking. But, to do this, I needed to adapt and extend the seminal work on shared intentionality by Gilbert, Bratman, Searle, Tuomela, and others.

From a philosophical point of view, the question is whether these adaptations and extensions make sense and are productive.

The notion of human thinking

I plead guilty to this charge, but defend myself by saying that I am looking for concepts that will be useful for my explanatory enterprise, and in some cases I not only borrow but borrow and modify concepts from particular philosophical systems. Bermudez, J. New York: Oxford University Press. Darwall, S. Tomasello, M. Carpenter, J. Call, T. Behne and H. In: Behavioral and Brain Sciences 28, p.

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User Account Log in Register Help. Search Close. Advanced Search Help. Show Summary Details. More options …. Editor-in-Chief: Schmid, Hans Bernhard. In the current book, the question is similar: what makes human thinking unique? And the answer is similar as well: human thinking is fundamentally cooperative. But this slightly different question and slightly different answer lead to a very different book. The book was clean and simple because the data we had comparing apes and humans were so sparse.

We could thus say things like ' Only humans understand others as intentional agents, and this enables human culture. Great apes appear to know much more about others as intentional agents than previously believed, and still they do not have human-like culture or cognition. Based on much research reported here, the critical difference now seems to be that humans not only understand others as intentional agents but also put their heads together with others in acts of shared intentionality, including everything from concrete acts of collaborative problem solving to complex cultural institutions.

The focus now is thus less on culture as a pro- I cess of transmission and more on culture as a Drocess of social coordination- and indeed, we argue here that modern human cultures were made possible by an earlier evolutionary step in which individuals made a living by cnordi- nating with others in relatively simple acts of collaborative foraging.

The specific focus on thinking means that this book does not simply doc- ument that humans participate in shared intentionality in a way that their nearest primate relatives do not, whicb has been done elsewhere. Rather, in addition, it examines the underlying thinking processes involved. To describe the nature of these thinking processes-in particular, to distinguish human 1 thinking from that of other apes-we must characterize its component pro- cesses of cognitive representation, inference, and self-monitoring.

The shared intentronalzty hypothmr claims that all three of these components were trans- formed in two key steps during human evolution. In both cases, the transfor- mation was part of a larger change of social interaction and organization in which humans were forced to adopt more cooperative lifeways. In order to survive and thrive, humans were forced, twice, to find new ways to coordinate their behavior with others in collaborative and then cultural activities and to coordinate their intentional states with others in cooperative and then conventional communication.

And this transformed, twice, the way that humans think. The writing of this book, as most others, was made possible by the support of many institutions and people. I would like to thank the University of Pitts- burgh Center for Philosophy of Science John Norton, director and seminar leader extraordinaire for hosting me for one peaceful semester of concen- trated writing in the spring of I especially benefited during this stay from Bob Brandom's generosity with his time and thoughts on many topics central to the current enterprise.

The book is better for all of these encounters. Of special importance, Richard Moore and Hannes Ralcoczy each read the entire manuscript at a fairly early stage and provided a number of trenchant comments and suggestions, re- garding both content and presentation. Thanks also to Elizabeth Knoll and three anonymous reviewers at Harvard University Press for a number of help- ful comments and criticisms on the penultimate draft. Last and most important, I thank my wife, Rita Svetlova, for providing con- stant and detailed critical commentary and suggestions throughout.

Many ideas were made clearer through discussion with her, and confusing passages were made clear, or at least clearer, by her literate eye. And so it is for other animal species. But for humans, thinking is like a jazz musician improvising a novel riff in the privacy of his own room. It is a solitary activity all right, but on an instrument made by others for that general purpose, after years of playing with and learning from other practitioners, in a musical genre with a rich history of legendary riffs, for an imagined audience of jazz aficionados. How did this novel form of socially infused thinking come to be, and how does it work?

One set of classic theorists has emphasized the role of culture and its artifacts in making possible certain types of individual thinking. Vygotsky emphasized that human children grow up in the midst of the tools and symbols of their culture, including especially the linguistic symbols that preorganize their worlds for them, and during ontogeny they internalize the use of these artifacts, leading to the kind of internal dialogue that is one prototype ofhuman thinking see also Bakhtin, Mead pointed out that when humans interact with one an- other, especially in communication, they are able to imagine themselves in the role of the other and to take the other's perspective on themselves.

Piaget argued further that these role-taking and perspective-taking abilities- along with a cooperative attitude-not only make culture and language pos- sible but also make possible reasoning in which individuals subordinate their own point of view to the normative standards of the group. And Wittgen- stein explicated several different ways in which the appropriate use of a linguistic convention or cultural rule depends on a preexisting set of shared social practices and judgments "forms of life" , which constitute the prag- matic infrastructure from which all uses of language and rules gain their interpersonal significance.

These social infrastructure theorists, as we may call them, all share the belief that language and culture are only the "icing on the cake" ofhumans' ultrasocial ways of relating to the world cognitively.

Tomasello, Michael. A Natural History of Human Thinking

Insightful as they were, all of these classic theorists were operating with- out several new pieces of the puzzle, both empirical and theoretical, that have emerged only in recent years. Empirically, one new finding is the surprisingly ; Call and Tomasello, Thus, great apes, as the closest living rela- tives of humans, already understand in human-like ways many aspects of their physical and social worlds, including the causal and intentional rela- tions that structure those worlds.

This means that many important aspects of human thinking derive not from humans' unique forms of sociality, culture, and language but, rather, from something like the individual problem-solving abilities of great apes in general. Another new set of findings concern prelinguistic or just linguistic human infants, who have yet to partake fully of the culture and language around them. These still fledgling human beings nevertheless operate with some cog- nitive processes that great apes do not, enabling them to engage with others socially in some ways that ireat apes cannot, for example, via joint attention and cooperative communication Tomasello et al.

The fact that these precultural and prelinguistic creatures are already cognitively unique provides empirical support for the social infrastructure theorists' claim that important aspects of human thinking emanate not from culture and language per se but, rather, from some deeper and more primitive forms of uniquely human social engagement. A small group of philosophers of action e. When individuals par- ticipate with others in collaborative activities, together they form joint goals and joint attention, which then create individual roles and individual perspec- tives that must be coordinated within them Moll and Tomasello, More- over, there is a deep continuity between such concrete manifestations of joint action and attention and more abstract cultural practices and products such as cultural institutions, which are structured-indeed, created-by agreed- upon social conventions and norms Tomasello, In general, humans are able to coordinate with others, in a way that other primates seemingly are not, to form a "we" that acts as a kind of plural agent to create everything from a collaborative hunting party to a cultural institution.

Further in this theoretical direction, as a specific form of human collabora- tive activity and shared intentionality, human cooperative communication involves a set of special intentional and inferential processes-first identified by Grice ,j arid since elaborated and amended by Sperber and Wilson , Clark , Levinson zooo , and Tomasello Human com- municators conceptualize situations and entities via external communicative vehiclesfir other persons; these other persons then attempt to determine why the communicator thinks that these situations and entities will be relevant for them.

What is it about the human brain that makes our species so different from those of other species?

This dialogic process involves not only skills and motivations for shared intentionality but also a number of complex and recursive inferences about others' intentions toward my intentional states. This unique form of. These new empirical and theoretical advances enable us to construct a much more detailed account than was previously possible of the social dimensions of human cognition in general.

Our focus in this book is on the social di- mensions of human thinking in particular. A specific focus on thinking is useful be- cause it restricts our topic to a single cognitive process, but one that involves several key components, especially I the ability to cognitively represent expe- riences to oneself "off-line"; 2 the ability to simulate or make inferences trans- forming these representations causally, intentionally, andlor logically; and 3 the ability to self-monitor and evaluate how these simulated experiences might lead to specific behavioral outcomes-and so to make a thoughtful behavioral decision.

It seems obvious that, compared with other animal species, humans think in special ways. But this difference is hard to characterize using traditional theories of human thinking since they presuppose key aspects of the process that are actually evolutionary achievements. These are precisely the social aspects of human thinking that are our primary focus here.

Thus, although many animal species can cognitively represent situations and entities at least somewhat abstractly, only humans can conceptualize one and the same situ- make simple causal and intentional inferences about external events, only humans make socially recursive and self-reflective inferences about others' or their own intentional states. And, finally, although many animals monitor and evaluate their own actions with respect to instrumental success, only humans self-monitor and evaluate their own thinkine with resDect to the - normative perspectives and standards "reasons" of others or the group.

These fundamentally social differences lead to an identifiably different type of think-.

In this book we attempt to reconstruct the evolutionary origins of this uniquely human objective-reflective-normative thinking. The shared intentiona- lity hypothesis is that what cieated this unique type of thinking-its processes of representation, inference, and self-monitoring-were adaptations for dealing with problems of social coordination, specifically, problems presented by indi- viduals' attempts to collaborate and communicate with others to co-operate with others.

Although humans' great ape ancestors were social beings, they lived mostly individualistic and competitive lives, and so their thinking was geared toward achieving individual goals. And this changed everything. Tnere were two key evolutionary steps. The first step, reflecting the focus of social infrastructure theorists such as Mead and Witrgenstein, involved the creation of a novel type of small-scale collaboration in human foraging.

Par- ticipants in this collaborative foraging created socially shared joint goals and joint attention common ground , which created the possibility of individual roles and perspectives within that ad hoc shared world or "form of life. To self-monitor this process the communicator had to simulate ahead of time the recipient's likely inferences. Because the collaboration and communication at this point were between ad hoc pairs of individuals in the moment-based on purely second-personal social engagement between "I" and "you3'-we may refer to all of this asjoint intentionality.

When put to use in thinking, joint intentionality comprises perspectival and symbolic representations, socially recursive inferences, and second-personal self-monitoring. This competition meant that group life as a whole became one big collaborative activity, creating a much larger and more per- manent shared world, that is to say, a culture. The resultinggroup-mindedness among all members of rhe cultural group including in-group strangers was based on a new ability to construct common cultural ground via collectively known cultural conventions, norms, and institutions.

As part of this process, cooperative communication became conventionalized linguistic communi- cation. This meant that individuals now could reason "objectively" from the group's agent-neutral point of view "from nowhere". When put to use in thinking, collective intentionality comprises not just symbolic and perspec- tival representations but conventional and "objective" representations; not just recursive inferences but self-reflective and reasoned inferences; and not just second-personal self-monitoring but normative self-governance based on the culture's norms of rationality.

Importantly, this evolutionary scenario does not mean that humans today are hardwired to think in these new ways. A modern child raised on a desert island would not automatically construct fully human processes of thinking on its own. Quite the contrary. Children are born with adaptations for collabo- rating and communicaring and learning from others in particular ways- evolution selects for adaptive actions. But it is only in actually exercising these skills in social interaction with others during ontogeny that children create new representational formats and new inferential reasoning possibilities as they internalize, in Vygotskian fashion, their coordinative interactions with others into thinking for the self.

And so let us tell a story, a natural history, of how human thinking came - to be, beginning with our great ape ancestors, proceeding through some early humans who collaborated and communicated in species-unique ways, and end- ing with modern humans and their fundamentally cultural and linguistic ways of being. Individual Intentionality Understanding consists in imagining the fact. Indeed, natural selection cannot even "see" cognition; it can only "see" the effects of cognition in organizing and regulating overt actions Piaget, In evolution, being smart counts for nothing if it does not lead to actingsmart.

The two classic theories of animal behavior, behaviorism and ethology, both focused on overt actions, but they somehow forgot the cognition. Classical ethology had little or no interest in animal cognition, and classical hehavior- ism was downright hostile to the idea. Although contemporaly instantiations of ethology and behaviorism take some account of cognitive processes, they pro- vide no systematic theoretical accounts. Nor are any other modern approaches to the evolution of cognition sufficient for current purposes.

And so to begin this account of the evolutionary emergence of uniquely human thinking, we must first formulate, in broad outline, a theory of the evolution of cognition more generally. We may then begin our natural history proper by using this theoretical framework to characterize processes of cogni- tion and thinking in modern-day great apes, as representative of humans' evolutionary starting point before they separated from other primates some six million years ago.

Evolution of Cognition All organisms possess some reflexive reactions that are organized linearly as stimulus-response linkages. Behaviorists think that all behavior is organized in this way, though in complex organisms the linkages may be learned and become associated with others in various ways. Starting from this foundation, cognition evolves not from a complexifying of stimulus-response linkages but, rather, from the individ- ual organism gaining I powers of flexible decision-making and behavioral control in its various adaptive specializations, and 2 capacities for cognitively representing and making inferences from the casual and intentional relations structuring relevant events.

Adaptive specializations are organized as self-regulating systems, as are many physiological processes such as the homeostatic regulation of blood sugar and body temperature in mammals. There is no way that a spider can spin a web using only stimulus-response linkages. Tne process is too dynamic and dependent on local context. Instead, the spider must have goal states that it is motivated to bring about, and the ability to perceive and act so as to bring them about in a self-regulated manner. The individual organism does not have the kind of causal or intentional understanding of the situation that would enable it to deal flexibly with "novel" situations.

Natural selection has designed these adaptive specializations to work invariantly in "the same" situations as those encountered in the past, and so cleverness from the individual is not needed. Cognition and thinking enter the picture when organisms live in less pre- dictable worlds and natural selection crafts cognitive and decision making processes that empower the individual to recognize novel situations and to deal flexibly, on its own, with unpredictable exigencies.

What enables effec- tive handltng of a novel situation is some understanding of the causal andlor intentional relations involved, which then suggests an appropriate and poten- tially novel behavioral respdnse. For example, a chimpanzee might recognize that the only tool available to her in a given situation demands, based on the physical causality involved, manipulations she has never before performed toward this goal.

Within this self-regulation model of individual intentionality, we may then say that thinking occurs when an organism attempts, on some particular occasion, to solve a problem, and so to meet its goal not by behaving overtly but, rather, by imagining what would happen if it tried different actions in a situation-or if different external forces entered the situation-before actually acting. This imagining is nothing more or less than the "off-line" simulation of potential perceptual experiences. To be able to think before acting in this way, then, the organism must possess the three prerequisites outlined above: I the ability to cognitively represent experi- ences to oneself "off-line," 2 the ability to simulate or make inferences trans- forming these representations causally, intentionally, andlor logically, and 3 the ability to self-monitor and evaluate how these simulated experiences might lead to specific behavioral outcomes-and so to make a thoughtful behavioral decision.

The success or failure of a particular behavioral decision exposes the underlying processes of representation, simulation, and self-monitoring-indi- rectly, as it were-to the unrelenting sieve of natural selection. Cognitive Representation Cognitive representation in a self-regulating, intentional system may be char- acterized both in terms of its content and in terms of its format. In terms of content, the claim here is that both the organism's internal goals and its ex- ternally directed attention NB: not just perception but attention have as content not punctate stimuli or sense data, but rather whole situattons.

Goals, values, and other reference values pro-attitudes are cognitive representa- tions of situations that the organism is motivated to bring about or maintain.

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Although we sometimes speak ofan object or location as someone's goal, this is really only a shorthand way of speaking; the goal is the situation of having the object or reaching the location. The philosopher Davidson writes, "Wants and desires are directed to propositional contents. What one wants is. If goals and values are represented as desired situations, then what the or- ganism must attend to in its perceived environment is situations relevant to those goals and values.

Desired situations and attended-to environmental situ- ations are thus perforce in the same perceptually based, fact-like representa- tional format, which enables their cognitive comparison. Of course, complex organisms also perceive less complex things, such as objects, properties, and events-and can attend to them for specific purposes-but in the current analysis they always do so as components of situations relevant to behavioral decision making.

To illustrate the point, let us suppose that the image in Figure 2. But what situations does the chimpanzee attend to! Although she could potentially focus her attention on any of the poten- tially infinite situations that this image presents, at the current moment she must make a foraging decision, and so she attends to the situations or "facts" relevant to this behavioral decision, to wit as described in English : that many bananas are in the tree that the bananas are ripe that no competitor chimpanzees are already in the tree that the bananas are reachable by climbing that no predators are nearby that escaping quickly from this tree will be difficult etc.

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For a foraging chimpanzee with the goal of obtaining food, given all of its perceptual and behavioral capacities and its knowledge of the local ecology, all of these are relevant rituatzonr for deciding what to do-all present in a single visual image and, of course, nonverbally. NB: Even the absence of something expected, such as food not in its usual location, may be a relevant situation. Relevance is one of those occasion-sensitive judgments that cannot be given a general definition.

Different species have different ways of life, of course, which means that they perceive or attend to different situations and components of situations. For the chimpanzee, in contrast, the leopards presence now presents an obstacle to its value of avoiding predators, and so it should look for a situation providing opportunities for escape, such as a tree to climb with- out low-hanging limbs-given its knowledge that leopards cannot climb such trees and its familiarity with its own tree-climbing prowess.

Ifwe now throw into the mix a worm resting on the banana's surface, the relevant situations for the three different species-the obstacles and opportunities for their re- spective goals-would overlap even less, if at all. Identifying situations relevant for a behavioral decision thus involves an organism's whole way of life von Uexkull, One plausible hypothesis is a kind of exemplar model in which the indi- vidual in some sense "saves" the particular situations and components to which it has attended many models of knowledge representation have atten- tion as the gateway.

Langacker's [] metaphor is of a stack of transparencies, each depicting a single situation or entity, and sche- matization is the process of looking down through them for overlap. We might think of the result of this process of schematization as cognitive models of various types of situations and entities, for example, categories of objects, or model-enables novel inferences about the token appropriate to the type.

Categories, schemas, and models as cognitive types are nothing mote or less than imagistic or iconic schematizations of the organism's or, in some cases, its species' previous experience Barsalou, ,zoo8. AS such, they do not suffer from the indeterminacy of interpretation that some theorists attribute to iconic representations considered as mental pictures, that is, the indeterminacy of whether this image is of a banana, a fruit, an object, and so forth Crane, For example, in a concrete problem-solving situation-such as a rock preventing the movement of a stick beneath it-some organisms might go through the kind of inferential simulation that Piaget called "mental trial and error": the organism imagines a potential action and its consequences.

Thus, a chim- panzee might simulate imaginatively what would happen if she forcefully tugged at the stick, without actually doing it. If she judged that this would be futile given the size and weight of the rock, she might decide to push the rock aside before pulling the stick. Also possible are inferences about causal and intentional relations created by outside forces and how these might affect the attainment of goals and values.

For example, a chimpanzee might see a monkey feeding in the banana tree and infer that there are no leopards nearby because if there were, the mon- key would be fleeing. Or, upon finding a fig on the ground, a bonobo might infer that it will have a sweet taste and that there is a seed inside-based on a categorization of the encountered fig as "another one of those" and the natural inference that this one will have the snme properties as ochers in the category.

Or an orangutan might recognize a conspecific climbing a tree as an intentional event of a particular type, and then infer something about goals and attention as intentional causes and so predict the climber's impending actions. Schema- tizing over such experiences again aided, perhaps, by the experience of the species , individuals may potentially build cognitive models of general patterns of causality and intentionality. The best m y to conceptualize such processes is in terms of off-line, image- based simulations, including novel combinations of represented events and entities that the individual herself has never before directly experienced as such, for example, an ape imagining what the monkey would do if a leopard entered the scene see Barsalou, , zoo8;for relevant data on humans;.

Bar salou, j, extends the analysis to nonhuman primates. Importantly, the combinatorial processes themselves will include causal and intentional rela- tions that connect different real and imagined situations, and also "logical" operations such as the conditional, "negation," exclusion, and the like. These logical operations are not themselves imagistic cognitive representations but, rather, cognitive procedures enactive, in Bruner's terms, or operative, in Piaget's terms that the organism accesses only through actual use.

Concrete examples of bow this works will be given when we look more closely at great ape thinking in the section that follows. Engaging in some such prn- cesses of behavioral self-monitoring and evaluation is what enables learning from experience over time. A cognitive version of such self-monitoring enables the agent, as noted above, to inferentially simulate a potential action-outcome sequence ahead of time and observe it-as if it were an actual action-outcome sequence-and then evaluate the imagined outcome.

This process creates more thoughtful decision making through the precorrection of errors. For example, consider a squirrel on one tree branch gearing up to jump to another. One can see the muscles preparing, but in some cases the squirrel decides the leap is too far and so, after feigning some jumps, climbs down the trunk and then back up the other branch. The most straightforward description of this event is that the squirrel is observing and evaluating a simulation of what ir would experience if it leaped; for example, it would experience missing the branch and falling-a decidedly negative outcome.

The squirrel most then use that simulation to make a decision about whether to actually leap. Okrent holds that imagining the possible outcomes of different behavioral choices ahead of time, and then evaluating and deciding for the one with the best imagined outcome, is the essence of instsumental rationality.

It is also possible for the organism to assess things Like the information it has available for making a decision in order to predict the likelihood that it will make a successful choice before it actually chooses. Humans even use the imagined evaluations of other persons-or the imagined comprehension of others in the case of communication-to evaluate potential behavioral deci- sions.

Whatever its specific form, internal self-monitoring of some kind is , n some critical to anything we would want to call thinking, as it constitutes i sense, the individual knowing what it is doing. Our best living models for this creature are humans' closest primate relatives, the nonhuman great apes hereafter, great apes , com- prising chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas, and orangutans-especially chim- panzees and bonobos, who diverged from humans most recently, around 6 million years ago. When cognitive abilities are similar among the four species of great ape but different in humans, we presume that the apes have con- served their skills from the last common ancestor or before whereas humans have evolved something new.

Our characterizations of the cognitive skills of this last common ancestor will derive from empirical research with great apes, cast in the theoretical frame- work of individual intentionality iust elaborated: behavioral self-regulation. That is to say, when great apes behave identically with humans, especially in carefully con- trolled experiments, we will assume continuity in the underlying cognitive processes involved.

The onus of explanation is thus on those who posit evolu- tionary discontinuities, a challenge we embrace in later chapters. Great Apes Think about the Physical World Processes of great ape cognition and thinking maybe usefully divided into those concerning the physical world, structured by an understanding of physical causality, and those concerning the social world, structured by an under- standing of agentive causality, or intentionality.

Primate cognition of the physical world evolved mainly in the context of foraging for food see Toma- sello and Cali, , for this theoretical claim and supporting evidence ; this is thus its "proper function" in Millikan's [] sense. In these most basic skills of physical cognition, all nonhuman primates would seem to be generally similar Toma- sello and Call, ; Schmitt et al.

What great apes are especially skillful at, compared with other primates, is tool use-which one might characterize as not just understanding causes but actually manipulating them. Other primates are mostly not skilled tool users at all, and when they are it is typically in only one fairly narrow context e.

In contrast, all four species of great ape ate highly skilled at using a variety of tools quite flexibly, including using two tools in succession in a task, using one tool to rake in another which is then needed to procure food , and so forth Herrmann et al. Classically, tool use is thought to require the individual to assess the causal effect of its tool manipulations on the goal object or event Piaget, , and so the flexibility and alacrity with which great apzs succeed in using novel tools suggest that they have one or more general cognitive models of causality guiding their use of these novel tools.

For example, Marin Manrique et al. Its solution required a tool with particular properties e. The trick was that the potential tools they could use were in a different room, out of sight of the problem. To solve this task, individuals had to first comprehend the causal structure of the novel problem, and then keep that structure cognitively represented while approaching and choosing a tool in the other room. Many individuals did this, often from the first trial onward, suggesting that they assimilated the novel problem to a known cog- nitive model having a certain causal structure, which they then kept with them as they entered the adjoining room.

They then simulated the use of at least some of the available tAols and the likely outcome in each case through the medium of this cognitive model-before actually choosing a tool overtly. In the study of Mulcahy and Call , bonobos even saved a tool for future use, presumably imagining the future situation in which they would need it. The simulations or inferences involved here have logical structure. This is not the structure of formal logic but, rather, a structure based on causal infer- ences.

In the experiment of Marin Manrique et al. This is basically a forward- facing inference, from premise or cause to conclusion or effect. In another set of recent experiments, we can see backward-facing infer- ences, that is, from effect to cause. Call showed chimpanzees a piece of food, which was then hidden in one of two cups they did not know which. Then, depending on condition, the experimenter shook one of the cups. The relevant background knowledge for success in this experiment is as follows: I the food is in one of the two cups learned in pretraining , and 2 shaking the cup with food will result in noise, whereas shaking the cup without food will result in silence causal knowledge brought to the experiment.

The two conditions are shown in Figure 2. The iconic diagrams modeling great ape cognitive representations in Figure 2. So they are meant to de- pict the ape's interpreted experience when she has seen the cup as a cup and the noise as coming from the cup, and so on. Importantly, these diagrams are created within the confines of a restrictive theory of the possibilities of great ape cognition.

Following Tomasello's depictions for one-year-old hu- man children, we make the dianrams out of concrete spatial-temporal-causal - elements that may be posited to be a part of the apes' cognitive abilities based on empirical research. The logical operations are depicted in English words, since the ape does not have perception-based representations ofthem, but only procedural competence with them.

In condition I, an experimenter shook the cup with food. In this case the chimpanzee observed a noise being made and had to infer backward in the causal chain to what might have caused it, specificaiiy, the food hitting the inside of the cup.

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  • A Natural History of Human Thinking by Michael Tomasello.

This is a kind of abduction not logically valid, but an "in- ference to best explanation". In condition 2, the experimenter shook the empty cup. In this case the chimpanzee observed only silence and had to infer backward in the causal chain to why that might be, specifically, that there was no food in the cup. This is a kind of proto-modw tollenr: I the shaking cup is silent; 2 if the food were inside the shaking cup, then it would make noise; 3 therefore, the food must not be in the cup the shaken cup must be empty. The chimpanzees made this inference, but they also made an additional one.

They combined their understanding of the causality of noise making in this context with their preexisting knowledge that the food was in one of the two cups to locate the food in the other, nonshaken cup if the food is not in this one, then it must be in that one; see bottom row in Figure 2.

This inferential paradigm thus involves the kind of exclusion in- ference characteristic of a disjunctive syllogism.