Kristen Andrews: “Normative Cognition in Great Apes”

Kristin Andrews
York Research Chair in Animal Minds and Associate Professor of Philosophy, York University

October 16, 2018

Recent research challenges the idea that adult humans are the only normative actors; from various perspectives norms are being identified in children (Hamlin et al. 2007) and great apes (Krupenye and Hare 2018; Vincent et al. 2018; von Rohr 2012, 2015). While some argue that nonhumans countenance specific human norms (e.g. Bekoff and Pierce 2009; Brosnan and deWaal 2012; Rowlands 2012), others disagree (Kitcher 2011; Korsgaard 2006; Tomasello 2016). To move beyond this impasse, I offer another approach to examining the question of moral cognition in the great apes by examining the cognitive capacities required for normative thinking. Inspired by Bicchieri 2017’s account of social norms, I present an account of animal social norms and show that there are four cognitive capacities involved in normative thinking that are early developing in humans: identification of agents; sensitivity to in-group/out-group differences, social learning of group traditions, and the conscious awareness of appropriateness. Drawing on primate and infant research, I show that these capacities of naïve normativity are part of typical human social cognitive practices, they are necessary for moral cognition on any approach to ethics, they are seen in great apes, and hence they are likely an ancient human cognitive endowment.