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Animal rights, animal minds, and human mindreading
  1. M Mameli1,
  2. L Bortolotti2
  1. 1King’s College, University of Cambridge, UK
  2. 2Centre for Social Ethics and Policy, School of Law, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr Matteo Mameli
 King’s College, University of Cambridge, Cambridge CB2 1ST, UK; gmm32{at}cam.ac.uk

Abstract

Do non-human animals have rights? The answer to this question depends on whether animals have morally relevant mental properties. Mindreading is the human activity of ascribing mental states to other organisms. Current knowledge about the evolution and cognitive structure of mindreading indicates that human ascriptions of mental states to non-human animals are very inaccurate. The accuracy of human mindreading can be improved with the help of scientific studies of animal minds. However, the scientific studies do not by themselves solve the problem of how to map psychological similarities (and differences) between humans and animals onto a distinction between morally relevant and morally irrelevant mental properties. The current limitations of human mindreading—whether scientifically aided or not—have practical consequences for the rational justification of claims about which rights (if any) non-human animals should be accorded.

  • SAP, scientific animal psychology
  • animal rights
  • mindreading
  • animal cognition
  • evolution
  • anthropomorphism

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