Friday, September 20, 2013

First a few technical preliminaries

First a few technical preliminaries. These are necessary because the field of concept analysis is unknown to most people, so initially folks are likely to misunderstand what I am saying. Moreover I am moving outside the traditional field of concept analysis, which is focused on human language.

I regard concepts as bodies of core belief. In philosophy of language a concept is often defined as what one has to know in order to use a word correctly. Thus a concept is a body of knowledge. I am expanding this definition in two ways. First, it is not about using words but rather action in general. If a horse looks for feed in a feed bucket it is because it has the concept of a feed bucket. Words have nothing to do with this. Second, knowledge implies that what one believes is true, but a concept can just as well be based on false beliefs, so I am likely to talk about beliefs not knowledge. In analytic philosophy knowledge is often defined as justified true belief, so belief is simply the broader category. Since my interest is what the horse (or other critter) believes, not whether it is true or not, I often prefer the term belief to that of knowledge. But in many cases we are talking about knowledge, sometimes deep knowledge.

Thus the scientific question is what can we infer about the core knowledge and beliefs of the horse (or other critter) from its behavior? Note that I am not particularly interested in horse training, or riding, etc., although what we discuss here may turn out to be relevant to those pursuits. My interest is to create a scientific framework within which we can study what horses and other critters believe about the world they live in. This is both simple and hard.

By way of introduction I am not a horse trainer, far from it. But I have worked with horses most of my adult life, especially in trying circumstances. I am the founding president of Back Country Horsemen of Virginia. See Back country refers to using horses to go to difficult places.

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