Thesis ID: CBB695035980

The Meaning of Meaning in Insect Navigation Research (2021)

unapi

Sterner, Beckett (Advisor)
Kelle Dhein (Author)


Sterner, Beckett
Arizona State University
Publication date: 2021
Language: English


Publication Date: 2021
Physical Details: 212

Getting clear about what behavioral scientists mean when they invoke content presupposing concepts, like information, is necessary for understanding how humanity’s own behavioral capacities do or do not relate to those of non-human animals. Yet, producing a general naturalistic definition for representational content has proven notoriously difficult. Some have argued that Claude Shannon’s formal, mathematically defined notion of information is the proper starting point for building a biological theory of content. Others have sought to define content presupposing concepts in terms of the historical selection processes that drive evolution. However, neither approach has produced definitions that capture the way successful researchers in the behavioral sciences use content-presupposing concepts. In this dissertation, I examine an ethological tradition of insect navigation research that has consistently ascribed content to insects. To clarify the meaning of such ascriptions, I analyze the practices scientists use to justify new attributions of content and the way new attributions of content guide scientists’ future research activities. In chapter 1, I examine a series of insect navigation experiments performed in 2006–2007 that led to a novel ascription of content. I argue that researchers ascribe content to insects’ navigation behaviors when those behaviors reliably accomplish a difficult goal-directed function. I also argue that ascriptions of content help researchers achieve their epistemic aims by guiding hypothesis formation and aiding comparative theorizing. In chapter 2, I trace the history of the experimental strategy analyzed aboveback to the work of Karl von Frisch in the early 20th century. I argue that von Frisch has a complicated and understudied relationship to the discipline of ethology. I support that argument by highlighting features of von Frisch’s research that both comported with and differed from the program of classical ethology. In chapter 3, I examine the cognitive map debate in insects. I argue that the debate stems from competing research groups’ endorsement of different norms for justifying claims about the dynamics of representational contents. I then situate these different norms historically to show how the cognitive map debate is a continuation of longstanding divisions within the history of animal behavior research.

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Authors & Contributors
Andrietti, Francesco
Berg, Hein van den
Burckhardt, Richard W., Jr.
Coen, Deborah R.
Generali, Dario
Gliboff, Sander Joel
Journals
Berichte zur Wissenschaftsgeschichte
History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences
História, Ciências, Saúde---Manguinhos
Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences
Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences
Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences
Publishers
Olschki
Indiana University
Cambridge University Press
Basilisken-Presse
Carocci Editore
CLUEB
Concepts
Ethology
Behavioral sciences
Biology
Cognition
Animals
Human-animal relationships
People
Vallisneri, Antonio
Eibl-Eibesfeldt, Irenäus
Frisch, Karl von
Lehrman, Daniel Sanford
Leroy, Charles-Georges
Lorenz, Konrad
Time Periods
20th century
17th century
18th century
Early modern
19th century
21st century
Places
Germany
Italy
Austria
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