Animal Lecturedays in Amsterdam

Besides the two lecturedays in Drenthe (15 September: consciousness and emotions in animals, and 6 October: introduction to animal ethics), this autumn the Institute for Animals in Philosophy and Science – IAPS will also organize three Animal Lecturedays in Amsterdam. During these days I will present the following three subjects: the recent research on the intelligence of dogs, consciousness and emotions in animals, and an introduction to animal ethics. The lecturedays are held for all those interested in expanding their knowledge about the intelligence of dogs or the consciousness and emotions of animals, and those who want to increase their knowledge and think about animal ethics. We start at eleven o’clock in the morning and continue until half past five in the afternoon, including a vegan lunch. 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. Below you will find the information about the three lecturedays. Note that all lecturedays will be held in the Dutch language.

Saturday 21 September: Animal Lectureday 1: Recent research on the intelligence of dogs.


How clever are dogs?

How clever are 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? Do dogs understand human communicative signals, such as pointing and gaze direction? What do dogs learn by social observation, is there evidence for imitation in dogs? 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 12 October: Animal Lectureday 2: Consciousness and emotions in animals.


Many animals dream and have affection for each other.

Many animals dream and have affection for each other.

During this lectureday we will address the question whether other animals besides humans have the ability to experience things like pain and pleasure. Are animals robots without subjective experiences or do animals experience sensations and other things just like us 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. 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 dogs and other animals. Which particular emotions do they have? Pleasure, pain, jealousy, guilt, gratitude? How important are affection and love in the lives of animals? Which animals seem to mourn deceased conspecifics? Can rats, dogs and apes laugh? Can animals have emotional traumas? 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 19 October: Animal Lectureday 3: Introduction to animal ethics.


How should we relate to other animals?

How should we relate to other animals?

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 equal 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. The following questions will be discussed, among others: Is the capacity for self-awareness relevant for the ways in which an animal should be treated? Are some animals replaceable? How can we discern speciesism, discrimination based on species? What are the arguments for equality among all animals? Do all living beings have an inherent value? What should one do if one is in a lifeboat with 3 other humans and 1 dog and one individual has to be thrown overboard in order not to sink the lifeboat? 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 are the keeping of animals in captivity, like in zoos, but also the recent issues regarding the large herbivores that have been placed in human constructed nature areas such as the Oostvaardersplassen: Is it morally justified not to feed these animals, but cull them during severe winters?

For whom? 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.

Practical information. All lecturedays will start at 11.00 o’clock in the morning and will end at 17.30 in the afternoon. The costs for attending are 60 euros per person for each lectureday. The registration fee for students (with a student ID card) is 40 euros for each lectureday. This price includes a (vegan) lunch and coffee and tea. People who register for all three lecturedays will get a discount and will pay 160 euros in total. Students who register for all three lecturedays will pay 100 euros in total.

Location: 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.

You can attend all three Animal Lecturedays or one or two of your own choice. You can register by sending a message to or by filling out the form below: 

In December I will organize these three Animal Lecturedays at a location in the east or south of The Netherlands. Further information will follow.

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