An Animal – Many Persons? Animal Personhood in Face of the Modularity of Mind

Uta Maria Jürgens


This essay analyzes how the Modularity of Mind impacts the anthrozoological argument that non-human animals are persons. Comparative research on human and animal minds suggests that human and other-than-human minds differ in their mental architecture such that animal cognition is largely modular whereas human thought fluidly integrates contents across modules. If animal minds are modular, then the idea of non-human personhood is challenged. Specifically, an animal with a modularized mind would not be one person facing the world and reflecting on itself in an integral manner, but would be an individual made of many persons: The animal would experience one reality and one self pertaining to each module (or partly-integrated domain of thought) and thus “be“ one distinct person in each of these worlds. Yet, within the framework of human-animal encounters, animal personhood can be meaningfully construed despite modularity of animal minds. On this account, animal personhood is conceived by virtue of the human ability to meta-integrate mental contents: The human mind meta-integrates the animal mind's modularized experience for the animal. Thus, in human-animal interactions, humans face the animal as a functional whole, as an integral animal person.

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International Journal of Social Science Studies   ISSN 2324-8033 (Print)   ISSN 2324-8041 (Online)

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