Animal Summerlectures

This Summer I am organizing four Animal Summerlectures on a Saturday afternoon.

dr. Rivas with the cat Slungel

In these lectures I will speak about recent developments in science and philosophy with regard to animals. The subjects of the lectures belong to my specialized knowledge, so these lectures are a good way to get acquainted with me. At the same time, I also hope to get to meet all kinds of enthusiastic people at these lectures, who are interested in broadening their knowledge about the behaviour of animals. The Animal Summerlectures will be held in the main building of the Vrije Universiteit (Free University) in Amsterdam. So if you’re thinking this Summer: I would like to get out of the sun for a while (or out of the rain 😉 then come to one of my lectures on the Saturday afternoon!

Though this announcement is in English, the four lectures will be held in the Dutch language.

Saturday 14 July: Language research with great apes.

The chimpanzee Tatu signing BLACK

In this lecture I will give a review of all language research carried out with chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas, and orangutans. From the beginning of the last century scientists have tried to teach our closest relatives, the great apes, something of the human language. First this was tried by teaching the apes spoken words, but this was not very successful. Subsequently, scientists attempted to teach sign language to chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans. Bonobos were also taught to use geometric symbols or lexigrams on a board or computerscreen. What are the results that have come out of this worldfamous research? Can great apes really acquire a human language or are they doing something different with the symbols they have learned? My own research with signing chimpanzees will also be presented.

Saturday 28 July: Language research with dogs, dolphins and parrots.

This lecture will present the language studies that have been done with other animals than great apes. Dolphins and sealions were taught to understand human signs by which they could carry out certain commands. The parrot Alex was able to speak human words and could not only correctly give the name of an object, but also its form, size and colour. Finally, recently several studies have been done with border collie dogs, who appear to understand hundreds of words for toys and other objects.

Saturday 11 August: Recent research on the intelligence of dogs.

dr. Rivas and the dog Faith

In the past 15 years a lot of new research has been done on the intelligence or cognition of dogs. At the universities of Leipzig and Budapest and all over the world many new studies are taking place that study what dogs can understand of the social and physical world around them. In this lecture, among other things, the following subjects will be presented: What do dogs understand of what people can see or not? How do dogs solve problems and do they learn by social observation? What do dogs comprehend of human communicative cues, such as pointing? What do dogs understand of their physical environment, like for example gravity? This lecture will be a shortened version of the extensive lecture day on the intelligence of dogs that I am organizing together with Dogschool Feedback on 15 September.

Saturday 25 August: Introduction to animal ethics.

How should we treat other animals?

In this last lecture I will give a short introduction to animal ethics. What are the ways in which philosophers and ethicists think about how we should treat animals? What values and arguments do they use? The most important schools within animal ethics will be presented: the utilitarianism of Peter Singer, the rights view of Tom Regan, philosophers that make a moral distinction between humans and other animals, and ethicists who take the existence of consciousness or sentience as a sufficient condition for an equal treatment of animals. The feminist care ethics will also be discussed, as well as the deep ecology philosophy.

For whom? The Animal Summerlectures are organized for anyone who is interested in animals and would like to know more about recent developments in scientific research about language and intelligence in animals, and in animal ethics. A special education is not required. The lectures will have room for questions and discussion, and will be enlivened by lots of pictures and short films. As was mentioned above, the lectures 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.

Time: Each lecture lasts 3 hours, starting at 12.30 and ending at 15.30 hours. This includes a short coffee and tea break.

Location: The lectures are held in the main building (Hoofdgebouw) of the Vrije Universiteit (Free University) at the De Boelelaan 1105 in Amsterdam. This location can be reached well by both public transport or car.

Price: Each individual lecture costs 25 euro. The four lectures together cost 100 euro. Admission to the lectures is only given when payment has been received in advance.

Registration: You can register for the lectures by sending an email to In your message, specify which lectures you would like to attend.

I hope to see you this Summer in Amsterdam!


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Filed under Animal Cognition, Animal Communication, Animal Ethics, Language research with animals, Lectures and courses

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