In this senior independent study, I seek to answer the question: How do humans judge animal intelligence? I examine the notion of language and how it is applied to understanding the minds of other animals, in particular dogs. I consider what philosophers historically have thought about in terms of the mental capacity of animals. Aristotle, René Descartes, and David Hume each argue different views of how humans should understand the animal mind. In addition, I go over the scientific counter parts of these philosophical accounts through Charles Darwin, C. Lloyd Morgan, B.F. Skinner, and Nikko Tinbergen, prominent animal behavior figures in the scientific community. This background information about the previous views on examining animal mental states will help the reader understand why I am taking the direction I am. I discus what language is pulling from Noam Chomsky, Walker Percy, and Ludwig Wittgenstein to form a base for understanding language, which I use in order to understand that animals do not use language in the same capacity as humans. From here I will explain my interpretation of an animal’s mental state. This will ultimately lead to the conclusion that to understand the mental state of other animals, we have to use our own language. This enables us to compare how we might think why a dog may have similar mental capacity as our own.


Hustwit, Ronald




Animal Studies


Animal Minds, Human Language, Wittgenstein

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



© Copyright 2015 Sarah C. Loether