Can Cats Read Minds?

Ali Boyle, iAi News, Sept 10, 2018
Commentary by Stephen Downes

I've thought a lot about the mental states. In the current case, we're not asking whether cats have ESP. Rather, if a cat does something, is it because the cat thinks we're thinking something, or is it simply reacting to behaviour. This article raises what is called 'the logical problem', because we can't change the evidence for our thinking something without also changing our behaviour. But it becomes odd and hard to explain a cat's actions without assuming they know what we're thinking. This article recounts the well-known instance of a cat sneaking up on you, but freezing when it thinks you're looking. OK, it could be responding to behaviour. But what about when the cat tries to deceive you, feigning disinterest when you have some food or something? But on the other hand - surely cats aren't capable of complex representational states involving human mental contents. Which to me raises the question - why do we assume humans are 'reading minds'?

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