On Tue, 10 Apr 2001, Krisztian Kirisztian wrote:
> > TOMASELLO:
> > In general, the argument is that in attempting to understand
> > other persons human infants apply what they already know
> > about themselves.
> Why should there be a direct link between the emergence of
> understanding the self and understanding others in children?
Presumably the link is not an a-priori necessity; it is simply a
correlation Tomasello has observed, and then incorporated into
a hypothetical causal model.
> Nonhuman primates do 'feel' as intentional beings, but still don't
> begin to see others as intentional beings, because of this single
What does "feel as intentional beings" mean? They certainly feel. What
in particular do they feel that other feeling, intelligent, social
creatures do not?
> > TOMASELLO
> > [...] My own view is that infant's early understanding of
> > other persons as 'like me' is indeed the result of a uniquely
> > human biological adaptation [...]
> Yes, the question is why this adaptation is uniquely human? Could
> the answer be the presence of a critical period in the development
> of the understanding of others? Maybe the special maturation of a
> certain brain structure is responsible for this ability.
Yes, but exactly what IS this critical structure/function?
If we were talking about machines that have or don't have this critical
function (active and available), exactly what would it be? Tomasello
recites very specific behavioral capacities -- for attending to the
same object, for directing attention to it, sharing attention
reciprocally, taking into account whether the other is attending, or
sharing attention, etc.
> > TOMASELLO:
> > It is in any case not an unreasonable hypothesis that human
> > infants display an especially powerful social attunement with
> > their caregivers from soon after birth, as reflected in their
> > tendency to interact both in reciprocally sensitive ways in
> > protoconversations and in a ways that requiring a matching
> > operation as they attempt to reproduce adult behaviors.
> Maybe nonhuman primates could be able to do
> such a trick, it's just that they don't pay attention, they don't care
> about others as much as human infants do.
> But then again, the question remains: why do human infants (only
> if they do!) differ from nonhuman infants in a manner like this?
You are asking whether the difference is motivational or cognitive, and
why there should be such a difference.
If there is such a difference, whether motivational or cognitive, it
presumably evolved, and evolved because of its adaptive advantages to
the species that had them. Perhaps you are wondering what the adaptive
advantages are? (Good question.) I'm also still wondering what the
functional differences are. And whether they are really the critical
differences underlying the capacity or incapacity for language.
> We know of nonhuman primates recognizing themselves in the
> mirror (with a red point on their forehead), therefore showing some
> sort of self-concept, and there's no way they could have acquired it
> through the above process.
I would say mirror-correlation-recognizing capacity merely indicates
mirror-correlation-recognizing capacity. I'm not sure what
"self-concept" is, but are you sure it is related either to having or
not having Gallup's mirror-correlation-recognizing capacity or
Tomasello's reciprocal attentional interactive capacity?
> Maybe some primates, and infants
> younger than nine months acquire some sort of self-consciousness
> while differentiating themselves from the bed, the pillow, and
> food? Does this mean that the increase of self-consciousness due to
> joint attentional phenomenon is not qualitative but quantitative?
What is "self-consciousness"? How is it different from or like
"self-concept"? or "feeling as intentional beings"? What do feeling
creatures have/lack if they have/lack either "self-consciousness" or
"self-concept" or the ability to "feel as intentional beings"?
(Notice the high proportion of synonyms and variants here, compared to
the low proportion of causal/functional explanation: Not Gabris's
fault; it is endemic to the area.)
But enough about "self-consciousness": What about language?
Stevan Harnad firstname.lastname@example.org
Professor of Cognitive Science email@example.com
Department of Electronics and phone: +44 23-80 592-582
Computer Science fax: +44 23-80 592-865
University of Southampton http://www.cogsci.soton.ac.uk/~harnad/
Highfield, Southampton http://www.princeton.edu/~harnad/
SO17 1BJ UNITED KINGDOM
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