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Abstract

This paper attempts to clarify and justify the attribution of mental states to animals by focusing on two different conceptions of intentionality: instrumentalist and realist. I use each of these general views to interpret and discuss the behavior and cognitive states of piping plovers in order to provide a substantive way to frame the question of animal minds. I argue that attributing mental states to plovers is warranted for instrumentalists insofar as it is warranted for similar human behavior. For realists about intentionality, the complexity, adaptability and flexibility of the plovers’ behavior, along with its ability to utilize the content of its representations and to satisfy the conditions of concept attribution, justifies attributing intentionality to plovers. Getting clearer on what is meant by animal minds, provides a better idea of what to look for in animal behavior. In many respects, investigating such phenomena is similar to investigations in other sciences.