How Animals Handle Reality- The Adaptive Aspect of Representation

  • Sverre Sjölander


A comparative look at the animal kingdom reveals that there are as many animal realities as there are basic animal types. A borderline between simple reactions and higher cognitive functions cannot be drawn, instead we find a plethora of ways of relating to reality, where the common denominator is that the methods of representation allow the animal to act in an adaptive way. Animal representation does not depiet reality-but it is a way of doing something to reality which in the long run ensures survival and reproduction. If reality is represented this way or that way, or at all, is of no importance, as long as the animal can act adoptively. It is even questionable if the concept of representation is helpful in understanding the cognition of lower animals, where interaction with reality merely consists of preprogrammed reactions devoid of understanding. Nevertheless, a focus on representation as a biological adaptation is helpful when discussing our own way of relating to reality, since the mechanisms at work must have evolved in a stone age ecology, geared at living in that particular form of reality. Some of our more notorious failures at handling our present-day world may be more easy to understand if this heritage is taken into account.


Representational System Intentional Stance Realistic Perception Adaptive Aspect Notorious Failure 
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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sverre Sjölander
    • 1
  1. 1.Division of BiologyUniversity of LinköpingLinköpingSweden

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