Can animals and infants form and revise beliefs in a rational way like adult humans?

What is the relation between human and animal rationality?

While philosophers often deny that infants and animals may be properly said to be rational on the grounds that they appear to lack the ability to assess their reasons for belief and action, cognitive psychologists and ethologists tend to describe infants and animals as rational agents in roughly the same sense that pertains to human adults.

ARED aims to develop a characterization of epistemic agency and rationality that applies to human adults, infants, non-human animals, and idealized subjects of many philosophical theories. It integrates an original philosophical framework with new empirical research on the cognition of non-linguistic subjects, which will seek evidence of forms of reflective skills in pre-verbal human infants, pigs, and dogs. The project aims to lay the groundwork for the interdisciplinary study of epistemic rationality and to contribute to the shaping a new area of research where epistemology meets developmental psychology and ethology.

ARED’s impact and applications promise to go beyond academic research. The experiments on the cognition of pigs and dogs will deliver information relevant for the assessment of welfare in pig-farming and which may have an impact on new techniques in dog-training. The acquisition of new evidence relevant to the question of how close animal rationality is to human rationality will be important for ongoing debates about animal rights. The developmental studies of infants may provide insights into early childhood education as well as parenting.

Theme by the University of Stirling

Scroll back to the top