The Institute for Animals in Philosophy and Science is organizing at the end of May and the beginning of June three lecturedays for anyone interested in expanding their knowledge about the intelligence, the consciousness and emotions of animals and about animal ethics. In the past year I organized the Animal Summerlectures and the Animal Winterlectures, in which I presented these subjects as well, but there the time limitation of 3 hours was sometimes inconvenient. For this reason I am now organizing whole lecturedays, so we will have enough time to discuss the subjects and to have questions and good discussions with the audience. The lecturedays will be held in Amsterdam. We will start at 11 o’clock in the morning and we’ll continue until half past 5 in the afternoon. As usual the lecturedays will be enlivened by lots of pictures and interesting short videos. At the end of the day you will receive a certificate from the Institute for Animals in Philosophy and Science. The programme of the three Animal Lecturedays is as follows.
Saturday 25 May: Animal Lectureday 1: Recent research on the intelligence of dogs.
In the past 19 years many new and exciting studies have been carried out on the intelligence or cognition of dogs. Special institutes for intelligence research with dogs have been set up at universities all over the world: the Family Dog Project at the University of Budapest (Adam Miklosi), the department of Comparative and Developmental Psychology at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthroplogy at the University of Leipzig (Juliane Kaminski and Michael Tomasello), the Clever Dog Lab at the University of Vienna (Ludwig Huber), and the Duke Canine Cognition Center at Duke University in the USA (Brian Hare). During this lectureday I will present and discuss the results of all these recent studies with dogs. Central themes are the social and physical intelligence of dogs. Subjects that will be presented are, amongst others: Do dogs understand what humans see, hear or know? What do dogs learn by social observation, is there evidence for imitation in dogs? Do dogs understand human communicative signals, such as pointing and gaze direction? How much evidence exists regarding empathy in dogs? What are the results of language research with dogs? Are dogs able to understand human words? What does dogs’ physical intelligence consists of, what do they know about their physical environment? Are dogs aware that objects keep existing (object permanence), can dogs count? How do they behave in exciting studies such as the magic cup? This lectureday will give you a good review of the current state of affairs of our scientific knowledge about the intelligence of dogs. This will probably change your own view of what dogs are capable of in terms of intelligence.
Saturday 1 June: Animal Lectureday 2: Consciousness and emotions in animals.
During this lectureday we will address the question whether other animals have the ability to experience things like pain and pleasure. Are animals robots without subjective experiences or do animals experience sensations and other things in a phenomenally conscious way? The French philosopher René Descartes claimed that nonhuman animals could not be conscious. Behaviorism in psychology also led to a taboo on the subject of consciousness in general. Even today there are still scholars who do not ascribe consciousness to animals, often based on the absence of ‘higher’ cognitive abilities and language (Bermond, Carruthers). In contrast are positions that argue for the presence of consciousness in animals by argueing from analogy, using systematic analyses of the nervous systems and behaviours of animals. I will present the work of Jaak Panksepp on affective neuroscience, which shows that at least all mammals, and birds too, share a number of brain centers for the same emotional systems. I will also discuss the various emotions of animals. Which particular emotions do they have? Pleasure, pain, jealousy, guilt, gratitude? Which animals seem to mourn deceased conspecifics? And what similarities exist between humans and other animals with regard to altered states of consciousness, such as dreaming and being under the influence of psychoactive medication and drugs?
Saturday 8 June: Animal Lectureday 3: Introduction to animal ethics.
On this lectureday I will give a review of the most important schools of thought in animal ethics. After a short introduction to philosophy and ethics and the history of moral thought about nonhuman animals, the most important current philosophers will be presented: Peter Singer and his utilitarian ethics of animal liberation. Tom Regan, who argues for animal rights from a deontological perspective. Philosophers who argue that the presence of sentience or consciousness is sufficient condition for moral consideration, such as Gary Francione. Philosophers who make a moral distinction between humans and other animals based on the capacity for language (Frey, Carruthers). Feminist animal ethics which looks at animals with the concepts of care and dialogue. And finally, deep ecology, in which humans and other animals are part of the biosphere. After this presentation of the various schools of thought and positions in animal ethics, a practical part will follow. The participants at the lectureday will be assigned to the most important animal ethics positions. We will then discuss several moral questions or dilemmas and the participants will then have to apply the reasoning of the particular animal ethics position they have been assigned to, to the specific moral dilemma. Examples of these moral dilemmas can be the problem of experimentation with nonhuman animals, but also the recent issues regarding the animals that live in human constructed areas such as the Oostvaardersplassen and the Amsterdam Waterleidingduinen.
Practical information. The Animal Lecturedays are organized for people who work with animals professionally, for students, and for anyone interested in animals and eager to broaden their knowledge about them. A specific former education is not required. The lecturedays will be given in the Dutch language, but a passive knowledge of English is convenient, given that some of the films that I will show are not subtitled. All lecturedays will start at 11.00 o’clock in the morning and will end at 17.30 in the afternoon. They will be held at Madame de Pompadour, Langsom 28 in Amsterdam. This location is very well accessible both by car (there is even free parking!) and by public transport. The costs for attending are 60 euros per person for each lectureday. This price includes lunch and coffee and tea. Lunch will be both vegetarian and vegan. You can register for all three Animal Lecturedays or to one of your own choice.
You can register by sending a message to firstname.lastname@example.org or by filling out the form below:
This Fall I am planning to organize multiple-day courses with my Institute for Animals in Philosophy and Science. I will then offer my course on communication and language research with animals, which I have given to various institutes of Higher Education for Older People (HOVO), so that people of all ages, including people younger than 50, can finally also attend this course. I am also busy constructing a new course on the intelligence of all kinds of animals, such as dogs, great apes and birds (corvids and others). Keep following me in order to stay up to date about coming events.