Can animals think? And if so, what do they think about and what are the limits of animal thought? Are they rational in the same sense humans are? Or is there a distinct animal rationality? Do they have concepts or beliefs? Do they understand causality or other minds? How can we get access to the animal mind? And how can we choose between alternative explanations for animal behavior? Philosophers have been discussing questions like these since antiquity and they do so for various reasons. Answers to these questions can have important implications for animal ethics but they are also important from an anthropological perspective, since one possible way to determine human nature is by comparison to non-human animals. But is there really an essential difference between humans and non-human animals, a so-called anthropological difference? Or are there only gradual differences that add up to a something that seems more fundamental than it really is?  And why do we put more emphasis on some differences than on others? Finally, what can we learn about the psychological abilities in question and our mental vocabulary by studying the animal mind?

In this seminar we´ll discuss these philosophical questions in due consideration of the relevant empirical literature from comparative psychology.

 

Suggested literature for preparation:

Hurley, S. & Nudds, M. (eds.) (2006). Rational animals? Oxford University Press.