UN3840: The Nature and Significance of Animal Minds | S. Brown

Undergraduate Seminar
W 12:10-2PM

Humans have a complicated relationship with other animals. We love them, befriend them and save them. We hunt, farm and eat them. We experiment on and observe them to discover more about them and to discover more about ourselves. For many of us, our pets are amongst the most familiar inhabitants of our world. Yet when we try to imagine what is going on in a dog or cat’s mind–let alone that of a crow, octopus, or bee–many of us are either stumped about how to go about this, or (the science strongly suggests) getting things radically wrong. Is our thought about and behavior towards animals ethically permissible, or even consistent? Can we reshape our habits of thought about animals to allow for a more rational, richer relationship with the other inhabitants of our planet? In this course, students will reflect on two closely intertwined questions: an ethical question, what sort of relationship ought we to have with animals?; and a metaphysical question, what is the nature of animal minds? Readings will primarily be from philosophy and ethics and the cognitive sciences, with additional readings from literature and biology.

There are no prerequisites for this class - it will be helpful but certainly not necessary to have taken previous classes in philosophy (especially ethics and philosophy of mind) or in cognitive science.

Link to Vergil
Note: only courses offered during the two previous semesters have active Vergil links.