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Utrecht Lectures on Topics in Mind and Action
12 April 2022 @ 15:30 - 17:00
When: Tuesday, April 12th, 15:30-17.00
Location: Utrecht University, Drift 21 (Room 003)
Title: Thinking about animal beliefs and norm
Dogs play fair. Chimpanzees protest infanticide. Whales sing the trendy new song. Many of the reports in animal cognition and behavior in recent years imply that animals think ought thoughts—that they have normative cognition. Fifty years ago, there was substantial debate about whether animals even have beliefs. Critics worried that animals lack the cognitive capacities required for having belief—capacities like metarepresentation, language, or deductive inference—or that they lacked the concepts needed for having beliefs—namely the concept of belief. Today, that debate has settled, not so much because we have a secure understanding of the nature of belief, but because we have a functional understanding of belief and its properties. The flexible cognitive behavior that animals exhibit across a range of contexts including memory, categorization, numerosity, rational inference, evaluation of evidence, self-control can only be explained by appealing to animal beliefs; this is a cornerstone of animal cognition research. Today’s debate about whether animals have norm cognition, or ought thoughts has begun similarly to this older debate about beliefs. Critics worry that animals lack the cognitive capacities for having norms—they lack concepts such as “ought” or capacities such as the ability to make inferences in deontic logic. Critics often describe norm cognition as an intellectual achievement that would only come later in cognitive evolution. Here I defend a form of norm cognition that can be had by animals even if they lack the capacity to represent a decoupled deontic thought, and I offer examples of behavioral patterns in animals that may be best explained by these sorts of primitive ought thoughts.
Attendance is free but space may be limited. To register, please send an e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org
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