Arts & Humanities Campus News

Book explores canine cognition

Although the past decade has seen an outpouring of research about canine cognition, this recent interest hasn’t sparked the attention of many philosophers. Studies regarding dog minds have been pouring out of canine cognition labs all over the globe, but they continue to be relatively hidden within the anthropological, scientific and sociological communities, and very little philosophical thought on dog cognition exists.

Philosophers certainly haven’t avoided theorizing about the nature of nonhuman animal cognition in general. Theories vary from Cartesian disavowal of all nonhuman intelligence to arguments that even fish have complicated minds and therefore humans shouldn’t eat them. Serious philosophical deliberations about dogs and their relationship to humans, however, remain incredibly rare. Even less common (if not entirely nonexistent) is a critical analysis of the question, “What are dogs thinking?” and what exactly asking and trying to answer that query uncovers—not so much about dogs, but about humans.

In “Minding Dogs,” Michele Merritt attempts to fill two important gaps in animal cognition philosophy. First, she adds to and builds on the growing discourse on canine cognition, which has been heavily disregarded until recently and needs more attention. Second, Merritt takes seriously our dynamic collaborations with our dogs as necessary to understanding both their minds and our own.