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Can animals possess knowledge?

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If I've understood Objectivism correctly, it says that knowledge presupposes free will to choose between alternatives. Does this mean that non-human animals cannot possess knowledge?

You don't understand it correctly.

Animals gain a primitive knowledge from sense perception or have an automatic knowledge at birth known as instinct.

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If I've understood Objectivism correctly, it says that knowledge presupposes free will to choose between alternatives. Does this mean that non-human animals cannot possess knowledge?
I see a pattern to the last three questions you've asked. Essentially, they start with a term: "rationality" in the previous two, "knowledge" in this. And, you ask a question about that term. My suggestion is that you should first clarify your key term by expanding on it, and then drop the term itself. Having done this, ask your question of yourself, using the expansion.

Take "knowledge". Since you are asking about knowledge, you must know what it means, so expand on it. At this stage, do not ask what it ought to mean, but what facts of reality it currently refers to in your own mind. For instance, suppose you come up something rough like this: "some familiarity with reality, gained either from experience or from some innate faculty (it does not matter which), that allows the consciousness to predict, with better than random probability of success, some principles of causality (e.g. "this will fall if I tug on it") even if the consciousness does not recognize the notion of "principle" or "knowledge" or "causality". Now, you can ask yourself: does a squirrel have that ability so described, and you will have your answer.

Or, alternatively, you might think the term "knowledge" refers to (roughly): "the ability to form concepts and frame principles about reality". In which case you may come up with a different answer. The difference stems from the term "knowledge" being used to label very different sets of referents. Though the same word is used, the concept meant could be completely different.

The same with "rationality". If by "rationality" you mean a certain type process, then a scientist following the right process, after having made a mistake, and thus barking up the wrong tree is still following the right process (aka being rational, by your own use of the term) [we'll assume that the mistake itself was not based on a faulty process]. On the other hand, if by "rationality" you mean following a process that will lead to the right answer, even if it is only by luck in this particular instance, but will not lead to the right answer most of the time (i.e. in principle), then you can answer your question differently.

So, I suggest you clarify your terms the next time you post a one-liner question.

Edited by softwareNerd
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Concepts require free will. It is not the case that all knowledge is concepts.

OK, so the correct thing to say is that conceptual knowledge requires free will? Science, for example, would not be trustworthy if our choices were determined?

Edited by Kjetil
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Animals gain a primitive knowledge from sense perception or have an automatic knowledge at birth known as instinct.

Dr. Edwin Locke did a talk called “Animal Cognition”, I’d say it was about 20 years ago, I had it on cassette tape (I probably still do, somewhere). He went through examples of scientists trying to get chimps to solve problems and learn words, things like that. His main point was that they don’t reach the conceptual level.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3udzhDvsG-s

So_What.jpg

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OK, so the correct thing to say is that conceptual knowledge requires free will? Science, for example, would not be trustworthy if our choices were determined?

Yes, I agree with that.

edit: Er. Actually, "trustworthy" is troublesome. That fact that conceptual thinking is essentially volitional is also what makes concepts fallible, and therefore untrustworthy. This is not a problem so long as trustworthiness does not require infallibility.

In Objectivism, what is infallible is what is automatic and non-conscious, which means the automatic operation of the senses. The evidence of the senses is the epistemological given and so is neither right nor wrong.

Where there is choice then there can be a wrong choice, so volition is source of the fallibility of knowledge. Volitionally adhering to a proper method of thinking (the definition of objectivity) is the means of achieving certainty in knowledge. Neither objectivity nor certainty is identical with infallibility. It is extremely helpful however to be able to demonstrate the relationship between the infallible evidence of the senses and one's conceptual abstractions.

Edited by Grames
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Yes, I agree with that.

edit: Er. Actually, "trustworthy" is troublesome. That fact that conceptual thinking is essentially volitional is also what makes concepts fallible, and therefore untrustworthy. This is not a problem so long as trustworthiness does not require infallibility.

In Objectivism, what is infallible is what is automatic and non-conscious, which means the automatic operation of the senses. The evidence of the senses is the epistemological given and so is neither right nor wrong.

Where there is choice then there can be a wrong choice, so volition is source of the fallibility of knowledge. Volitionally adhering to a proper method of thinking (the definition of objectivity) is the means of achieving certainty in knowledge. Neither objectivity nor certainty is identical with infallibility. It is extremely helpful however to be able to demonstrate the relationship between the infallible evidence of the senses and one's conceptual abstractions.

So, would it be correct to assume that: consciousness is a property of our physical faculties--that which enables us to absorb sense data. And, because of the nature or possibility of fallibility of our consciousness, unlike fire whose nature shows that it must and will always light given the correct circumstances, volition can be thought of as a special property of our consciousness which is required in order to retain, reason through, and justify knowledge?

i think i'm confusing myself here too. i hate my strange sentence structure.

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  • 5 months later...
I see a pattern .... My suggestion is that you should first clarify your key term by expanding on it, and then drop the term itself. Having done this, ask your question of yourself, using the expansion. Take "knowledge". Since you are asking about knowledge, you must know what it means, so expand on it. At this stage, do not ask what it ought to mean, but what facts of reality it currently refers to in your own mind. For instance, suppose you come up something rough like this: "some familiarity with reality, gained either from experience or from some innate faculty (it does not matter which), that allows the consciousness to predict, with better than random probability of success, some principles of causality (e.g. "this will fall if I tug on it") even if the consciousness does not recognize the notion of "principle" or "knowledge" or "causality". Now, you can ask yourself: does a squirrel have that ability so described, and you will have your answer.

This is helpful to me too. Thanks. Let me check with you to see that I am getting this. By applying your suggestion, I can clarify a term by expanding it. With that, I see two things. On the one level in your example, the squirrel is knowledgeable, right? He comes to know that to tug, the nut falls. But on the other level in your example, the same squirrel has no "ability to form concepts and frame principles about reality" and as such is no more knowledgeable than the nuts below him, right?

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Dr. Edwin Locke did a talk called “Animal Cognition”, ...). He went through examples of scientists trying to get chimps to solve problems and learn words,.... His main point was that they don’t reach the conceptual level.

This is not new to Dr. Locke or you, but it is to me. I am asking about the topic because I am learning to think and articulate more clearly that which is truly human. Forming concepts and reasoning are those traits that I've always held as the difference. Now in conversations with folks who believe otherwise, I am defending rather weakly.

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Let me check with you to see that I am getting this. By applying your suggestion, I can clarify a term by expanding it. With that, I see two things. On the one level in your example, the squirrel is knowledgeable, right? He comes to know that to tug, the nut falls. But on the other level in your example, the same squirrel has no "ability to form concepts and frame principles about reality" and as such is no more knowledgeable than the nuts below him, right?
I've long forgotten the context, but I think you're correct about the point I was making. Clearly, the squirrel has some ability that is different from the nuts, which have none. Equally clearly, the squirrel's ability is not close to a human's. Once we know those facts, and the things that lead to them, and the implications that follow, we pretty much know enough about the this aspect of squirrels. Next, we can now go on and decide whether we want to label this ability "knowledge" or whether we want to use that label for more human-like abilities. Either way, it does not throw any light on the facts about a squirrel's ability.

(PS: I'm not implying that we should arbitrarily decide whether or not to call the squirrel's ability knowledge.)

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