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50 Years of Language Experiments with Great Apes

Igor Hanzel

The book approaches the language experiments with great apes performed in the last 50 years from the point of view of logical semantics, speech act theory, and philosophy of the social sciences based on the linguistic turn in philosophy. The author reconstructs the experiments with the great apes Washoe, Chantek, Lana, Sherman, Austin, Kanzi, Sarah and Sheba who were taught various kinds of languages, including the language of mathematics. From the point of view of the philosophy of science these experiments are interpreted as being part of the social sciences. The book proposes new mathematical experiments that are based on modern semantical reconstruction of the language of mathematics. The author shows that modern scientific research into great apes has shifted from natural science to social science.

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9. New Mathematical Experiments: A Proposal


9. New Mathematical Experiments: A Proposal

Based on the semantics for the language of mathematics presented in Part 6.5, I now propose several new experiments which, at least in my view, are worth to be performed with great apes in the future.

From the point of view of semantic notions of construction, base, and number in the sense of the intension being construed, the addition experiment with Sheba described in Part 5 can be viewed as follows. It involved three elements in the very construction that were pregiven (given to her prior to the conduct of the addition experiment): the operation of addition (+, for short) and two numbers (K1 and K2, for short); I express this construction as [+, K1, K2], while the intension (I, for short) is the construed entity. The addition experiment can then be expressed as [+, K1, K2] → I, where the arrow expresses Sheba’s assignment of the intension to the construction.

The addition experiment performed by Sheba as well as the new mathematical experiments proposed by me are summarized in Table 5.

Table 5 Description of proposed new mathematical experiments with great apes

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The elements of the experiment that are pregiven to the great ape are shown under the heading “Pregiven”. The left column lists the possible mathematical operation. In the first line the great ape faces the operation of addition as pregiven. The first cell in this line expresses that...

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