case western reserve university



Thinking Animals:
Animal Cognition and Consciousness

  • Thinking Animals: Animal Cognition and Consciousness? Wednesday, 28 March 2007. 4-5:15pm. 618 Crawford Hall.
  • Dr. Hillel Chiel: Concepts for Cognitive Neuroethology

  • Dr. Chiel will argue that the ability to perceive cognition and consciousness in other human beings is predicated on observation, analogy, and operational definitions, and this provides a basis for extending the concepts of cognition and consciousness to nonverbal and nonhuman organisms. He will briefly outline a research program, cognitive neuroethology, that could be used to explore the neural mechanisms of cognition and consciousness in a wide variety of animals, and describe some of the technology that is being developed that may be important for such research.

  • Dr. Per Aage Brandt: Animal Consciousness

  • In humans, consciousness comprises an integration of two essential constructions: a neutral surround space and a first-person angle space. Within this integrated present-state space, there are at least 4 types of sign 'windows' allowing us to attend to other (conceptualized) spaces only related to our present-state space through these 'windows'. Do other mammals have the same or comparable 'windows', or do they live in a 'windowless' present space-time? I would like to make a suggestion as to the existence and the nature of certain animal 'windows'.

  • Dr. Sara Waller: Animal models for cognition and consciousness

  • Dr. Waller will review Nagel's main points in the article "What is it like to be a bat?" and present arguments for making the leap to attributing mental states to other creatures. Using recent evidence for higher cognition in non-human primates, dolphins and wolves, she will discuss the role of imagination and interpretation in understanding animal cognition and consciousness, and clarify the functions of our notions of consciousness, categories for concepts, and empathetic understanding in theorizing about animal minds.

  • Dr. Jutta Ittner: Imagining the Animal

  • Dr. Ittner will present two contrasting examples of literary animal constructs by Virginia Woolf and Paul Auster that reflect the move from traditional to “new” anthropomorphism. Imagining nonhuman existence raises multiple questions about human and nonhuman cognition and consciousness: Can we imagine animal alterity without anthropomorphizing? When we imagine entering the animal mind, are we “becoming animal”? Do fictitious representations of Otherness offer insights into animalness, or are they just mirror images of the human condition? Etc.