Research Article

Dogs and Concepts

Alice Crarya1 c1

a1 New School for Social Research, New York


This article is a contribution to discussions about the prospects for a viable conceptualism, i.e., a viable view that represents our modes of awareness as conceptual all the way down. The article challenges the assumption, made by friends as well as foes of conceptualism, that a conceptualist stance necessarily commits us to denying animals minds. Its main argument starts from the conceptualist doctrine defended in the writings of John McDowell. Although critics are wrong to represent McDowell as implying that animals are mindless brutes, it is difficult to see what is wrong with this critical unless we depart from McDowell's technical terminology and introduce a notion of a concept flexible enough to apply to the lives of some non-rational animals. The article closes with a discussion of observations that speak for attributing concepts, flexibly understood, to dogs.

(Online publication March 14 2012)



Alice Crary is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the New School for Social Research. Her submission to the journal is an extract from a book she is writing on human beings, animals, and ethics.