University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna - Research portal

Diagrammed Link to Homepage University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna

Selected Publication:

Open Access Logo

Type of publication: Journal Article
Type of document: Full Paper

Year: 2021

Authors: Monsó, S; Osuna-Mascaró, AJ

Title: Death is common, so is understanding it: the concept of death in other species.

Source: Synthese. 2021; 199(1-2):2251-2275

Authors Vetmeduni Vienna:

Monso Gil Susana
Osuna Mascaro Antonio Jose

Vetmed Research Units
Messerli Research Institute, Comparative Cognition
Messerli Research Institute, Ethics and Human-Animal Studies

Project(s): Animals and the Concept of Death

The innovation problem: factors influencing innovative tool use in humaninfants and cockatoos

Comparative thanatologists study the responses to the dead and the dying in nonhuman animals. Despite the wide variety of thanatological behaviours that have been documented in several different species, comparative thanatologists assume that the concept of death (CoD) is very difficult to acquire and will be a rare cognitive feat once we move past the human species. In this paper, we argue that this assumption is based on two forms of anthropocentrism: (1) an intellectual anthropocentrism, which leads to an over-intellectualisation of the CoD, and (2) an emotional anthropocentrism, which yields an excessive focus on grief as a reaction to death. Contrary to what these two forms of anthropocentrism suggest, we argue that the CoD requires relatively little cognitive complexity and that it can emerge independently from mourning behaviour. Moreover, if we turn towards the natural world, we can see that the minimal cognitive requirements for a CoD are in fact met by many nonhuman species and there are multiple learning pathways and opportunities for animals in the wild to develop a CoD. This allows us to conclude that the CoD will be relatively easy to acquire and, so, we can expect it to be fairly common in nature.© The Author(s) 2020.

© University of Veterinary Medicine ViennaHelp and DownloadsAccessibility statement