Back to David's theory of evolution of abstract thought (Evolution)

by dhw, Friday, July 31, 2020, 11:44 (4 days ago) @ David Turell

dhw: I am not denying instinct. But behaviour is also governed by experience and observation and learning, and some of that behaviour may well become instinctive over time. Your study of the issue appears to have made you oblivious to the obvious fact that without linking cause to effect, no organism can survive. Your refusal to believe that other animals can make this link, and your belief that leaf-biting requires the same degree of conceptual thought as philosophizing about God suggests to me that your study of the issue could do with a bit of broadening.

DAVID: You really don't understand the difference. From Wikipedia:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abstract_and_concrete
the terms "concrete" and "formal" to describe two different types of learning. Concrete thinking involves facts and descriptions about everyday, tangible objects, while abstract (formal operational) thinking involves a mental process.

This in itself is nonsensical: concrete thinking about facts and objects is still thinking, and thinking is a mental process. The difference is what is being thought about.

In metaphysics, abstract and concrete are classifications that denote whether the object that a term describes has physical referents. Abstract objects have no physical referents, whereas concrete objects do.

That’s more like it. Concrete thinking refers to facts and objects, and abstract thinking refers to non-physical subjects. Leaves and flowers are concrete, God is abstract.

DAVID: Simply, no animal can conceptualize cause and effect as you imagine. That is why God gave them instincts.

Why do you use the word “conceptualize”? I am not claiming that bees create an abstract idea from their observations. If you kick your dog, next time (let’s say two weeks later) he sees you raise your foot, he’ll run away. This is not the result of philosophical cogitation, but a simple association of one physical action with another, cause and effect: raised foot leads to pain, so I'd rather not repeat it. Bee observation: leaf bite leads to early flowering, so let’s repeat it. If the leaf bite had given our bee acute indigestion, do you think she would have tried another bite two weeks later?

On the “Natural wonders” thread:
QUOTE: “…once you have evolved an ear that lets you hear these calls, you can simply fly away
and escape into safety.
...”
"Which the cricket has learned to do." (DAVID’s bold)

dhw: Yes indeed, organisms LEARN to make beneficial use of their observations. Thank you for bolding it.

I’ll skip the rest of the exchange, because it only leads to the following conclusion:

DAVID: Believe what you want, but animals think only concretely, have no conceptualization ability and require implanted instincts. They see objects for what they are without any cause and effect entering their minds.

I accept the second Wikipedia definition: that animals think about physical referents (concrete) and not about non-physical referents (abstract). This echoes the article’s definition of particulars (concrete) versus universals (abstract). Even you have used the word “think”, which is a mental process. We will simply have to disagree on whether animals are capable of associating cause and effect when observing the physical world, but I remain bewildered by your insistence that leaf-biting “requires the same degree of conceptual thought that we use”!


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