Tag Archives: pleasure in animals

Join us at the first Animal Lecture in English!

In 2014 the Institute for Animals in Philosophy and Science is organising for the first time Animal Lectures in English for an international audience. In these lectures psychologist and philosopher dr. Esteban Rivas will present up-to-date reviews of the current scientific state of affairs regarding the consciousness, emotions, and intelligence of nonhuman animals, as well as animal ethics, or how we should relate to other animals.

VignetConsciousness&EmotionsinAnimals

On Saturday 11 January 2014 the first Animal Lecture in English will be held at the Main building of the Free University in Amsterdam. The subject of this lecture is “Consciousness and emotions in animals.” During this lecture dr. Rivas will address the question whether other animals have the ability to experience things like pain and pleasure. Are animals robots without subjective experiences or do animals experience sensations and other things in a phenomenally conscious way? The French philosopher René Descartes claimed that nonhuman animals could not be conscious. Behaviorism in psychology also led to a taboo on the subject of consciousness in general. Even today there are still scholars who do not ascribe consciousness or sentience to animals, often based on the absence of ‘higher’ cognitive abilities and language. In contrast are positions that argue for the presence of consciousness in animals by argueing from analogy, using systematic analyses of the nervous systems and behaviours of animals. Rivas will present the work of Jaak Panksepp on affective neuroscience, which shows that at least all mammals, and birds too, share a number of brain centers for the same emotional systems. We will also discuss the various emotions of animals. Which particular emotions do they have? Pleasure, pain, jealousy, guilt, gratitude? Which animals seem to mourn deceased conspecifics? And what similarities exist between humans and other animals with regard to altered states of consciousness, such as dreaming and being under the influence of psychoactive medication and drugs?

At the end of March and in April three other Animal Lectures in the English language will be organised. These are the following:

  • Saturday 29 March: Communiation and language research with animals.
  • Saturday 5 April: Recent research on the intelligence of dogs.
  • Saturday 12 April: Introduction to animal ethics.

Click here for more information about the contents of these three Animal Lectures.

Practical information. The Animal Lectures are organized for people who work with animals professionally, for students, and for anyone interested in animals and eager to broaden their knowledge about them. A specific former education is not required. The lectures start at 12.30 and end at 16.30 hours. Registration for the Animal Lectures costs 35 euro for each lecture. Students with a student ID card pay 25 euro for each lecture. You can register for all or several of the lectures by sending a message to estebanyes@gmail.com. You will then receive an email message with all practical details, such as payment etc.

See you in Amsterdam!

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Animal Consciousness, Animal Emotions, Lectures and courses

Animal Lectures in Amsterdam

After getting multiple requests for lectures in English, dr. Rivas has decided to organize four English lectures about animals. They will be given on a Saturday afternoon, from 12.30 to 16.30 hours and will be held at the Free University in Amsterdam.

Saturday 11 January:

Animal Lecture 1: Consciousness and emotions in animals.

VignetConsciousness&EmotionsinAnimals

Do animals dream?

Do animals dream?

During this lectureday dr. Rivas will address the question whether other animals have the ability to experience things like pain and pleasure. Are animals robots without subjective experiences or do animals experience sensations and other things in a phenomenally conscious way? The French philosopher René Descartes claimed that nonhuman animals could not be conscious. Behaviorism in psychology also led to a taboo on the subject of consciousness in general. Even today there are still scholars who do not ascribe consciousness to animals, often based on the absence of ‘higher’ cognitive abilities and language. In contrast are positions that argue for the presence of consciousness in animals by argueing from analogy, using systematic analyses of the nervous systems and behaviours of animals. Rivas will present the work of Jaak Panksepp on affective neuroscience, which shows that at least all mammals, and birds too, share a number of brain centers for the same emotional systems. I will also discuss the various emotions of animals. Which particular emotions do they have? Pleasure, pain, jealousy, guilt, gratitude? Which animals seem to mourn deceased conspecifics? And what similarities exist between humans and other animals with regard to altered states of consciousness, such as dreaming and being under the influence of psychoactive medication and drugs?

Saturday 29 March:

Animal Lecture 2: Communication and language research with animals.

AL2CommunicationLanguageResearchAnimals

The chimpanzee Tatu makes the sign for BLACK.

The chimpanzee Tatu makes the sign for BLACK.

Animal communication takes places in many different ways. At a certain moment in evolution animal communication developed into human language. The question that scientists and philosophers have had for a long time, is whether humans are the only animals with language. In this lecture dr. Rivas will present recent developments in the scientific study of animal communication and he will discuss the results of language research with nonhuman animals. The following subjects will be presented: The characteristics of human language and animal communication. The relationship between language and brain and language development in human children. What referential information about predators is transmitted in the alarm calls of vervet monkeys and prairie dogs? What are the similarities between birdsong and human language? The natural communication of great apes: facial expressions, vocalisations and gestures. Language research with great apes has been taking place for more than a century. First there were attempts to teach them words, after which several projects were successful in teaching signs to great apes. The famous chimpanzee Washoe and the gorilla Koko learned to use more than hundred signs to communicate with humans. The bonobo Kanzi and other apes learned to communicate by means of geometric symbols or lexigrams. But there is also an ape language controversy, because in what way does this use of symbols compare to human language? Dr. Rivas will also present his own study of the language apes. Finally, the results of language research with dolphins, sealions, parrots (the famous parrot Alex), and dogs will be presented.

Saturday 5 April:

Animal Lecture 3: Recent research on the intelligence of dogs.

AL3DogIntelligence

How smart are dogs?

How smart are dogs?

In the past 19 years many new and exciting studies have been carried out on the intelligence or cognition of dogs. Special institutes for intelligence research with dogs have been set up at universities all over the world: the Family Dog Project at the University of Budapest (Adam Miklosi), the department of Comparative and Developmental Psychology at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthroplogy at the University of Leipzig (Juliane Kaminski and Michael Tomasello), the Clever Dog Lab at the University of Vienna (Ludwig Huber), and the Duke Canine Cognition Center at Duke University in the USA (Brian Hare). During this lecture dr. Rivas will present and discuss the results of all these recent studies with dogs. Central themes are the social and physical intelligence of dogs. Subjects that will be presented are, amongst others: Do dogs understand what humans see, hear or know? What do dogs learn by social observation, is there evidence for imitation in dogs? Do dogs understand human communicative signals, such as pointing and gaze direction? How much evidence exists regarding empathy in dogs? What are the results of language research with dogs? Are dogs able to understand human words? What does dogs’ physical intelligence consists of, what do they know about their physical environment? Are dogs aware that objects keep existing (object permanence), can dogs count? How do they behave in exciting studies such as the magic cup? This lecture will give you a good review of the current state of affairs of our scientific knowledge about the intelligence of dogs. This will probably change your own view of what dogs are capable of in terms of intelligence.

Saturday  12 April:

Animal Lecture 4: Introduction to animal ethics.

AL4AnimalEthics

How should we relate to other animals?

How should we relate to other animals?

On this lectureday I will give a review of the most important schools of thought in animal ethics. After a short introduction to philosophy and ethics and the history of moral thought about nonhuman animals, the most important current philosophers will be presented: Peter Singer and his utilitarian ethics of animal liberation. Tom Regan, who argues for animal rights from a deontological perspective. Philosophers who argue that the presence of sentience or consciousness is sufficient condition for moral consideration, such as Gary Francione. Philosophers who make a moral distinction between humans and other animals based on the capacity for language (Frey, Carruthers). Feminist animal ethics which looks at animals with the concepts of care and dialogue. And finally, deep ecology, in which humans and other animals are part of the biosphere. Questions that will be discussed are, a.o.: Is having self-consciousness of importance for the way in which an animal should be treated? Are some animals replaceable? When is a position speciesism, discrimination based on species? What are the arguments for equality among all animals? Do all living beings have an inherent value? What should one do if one were in a lifeboat with 3 other humans and 1 dog, and one individual should be thrown overboard in order for the lifeboat not to sink?

Practical information. The Animal Lectures are organized for people who work with animals professionally, for students, and for anyone interested in animals and eager to broaden their knowledge about them. A specific former education is not required. The lectures start at 12.30 and end at 16.30 hours. Registration for the Animal Lectures costs 35 euro for each lecture. Students with a student ID card pay 25 euro for each lecture.

Location: Main Building of the Free University, De Boelelaan 1105, Amsterdam. This location is well accessible both by car and public transport. Free parking is possible at the Gustav Mahlerlaan and the A.J. Ernstlaan.

Registration: You can register by simply sending an email message to estebanyes@gmail.com. You can register for all or several of the lectures. You will then receive an email message with all practical details, such as payment etc.

Leave a comment

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

Animal Lecturedays in Amsterdam

Besides the two lecturedays in Drenthe (15 September: consciousness and emotions in animals, and 6 October: introduction to animal ethics), this autumn the Institute for Animals in Philosophy and Science – IAPS will also organize three Animal Lecturedays in Amsterdam. During these days I will present the following three subjects: the recent research on the intelligence of dogs, consciousness and emotions in animals, and an introduction to animal ethics. The lecturedays are held for all those interested in expanding their knowledge about the intelligence of dogs or the consciousness and emotions of animals, and those who want to increase their knowledge and think about animal ethics. We start at eleven o’clock in the morning and continue until half past five in the afternoon, including a vegan lunch. As usual, the lecturedays will be enlivened by lots of pictures and interesting short videos. At the end of the day you will receive a certificate from the Institute for Animals in Philosophy and Science. Below you will find the information about the three lecturedays. Note that all lecturedays will be held in the Dutch language.

Saturday 21 September: Animal Lectureday 1: Recent research on the intelligence of dogs.

Description:

How clever are dogs?

How clever are dogs?

In the past 19 years many new and exciting studies have been carried out on the intelligence or cognition of dogs. Special institutes for intelligence research with dogs have been set up at universities all over the world: the Family Dog Project at the University of Budapest (Adam Miklosi), the department of Comparative and Developmental Psychology at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthroplogy at the University of Leipzig (Juliane Kaminski and Michael Tomasello), the Clever Dog Lab at the University of Vienna (Ludwig Huber), and the Duke Canine Cognition Center at Duke University in the USA (Brian Hare). During this lectureday I will present and discuss the results of all these recent studies with dogs. Central themes are the social and physical intelligence of dogs. Subjects that will be presented are, amongst others: Do dogs understand what humans see, hear or know? Do dogs understand human communicative signals, such as pointing and gaze direction? What do dogs learn by social observation, is there evidence for imitation in dogs? How much evidence exists regarding empathy in dogs? What are the results of language research with dogs? Are dogs able to understand human words? What does dogs’ physical intelligence consists of, what do they know about their physical environment? Are dogs aware that objects keep existing (object permanence), can dogs count? How do they behave in exciting studies such as the magic cup? This lectureday will give you a good review of the current state of affairs of our scientific knowledge about the intelligence of dogs. This will probably change your own view of what dogs are capable of in terms of intelligence.

Saturday 12 October: Animal Lectureday 2: Consciousness and emotions in animals.

Description:

Many animals dream and have affection for each other.

Many animals dream and have affection for each other.

During this lectureday we will address the question whether other animals besides humans have the ability to experience things like pain and pleasure. Are animals robots without subjective experiences or do animals experience sensations and other things just like us in a phenomenally conscious way? The French philosopher René Descartes claimed that nonhuman animals could not be conscious. Behaviorism in psychology also led to a taboo on the subject of consciousness in general. Even today there are still scholars who do not ascribe consciousness to animals, often based on the absence of ‘higher’ cognitive abilities and language. In contrast are positions that argue for the presence of consciousness in animals by argueing from analogy, using systematic analyses of the nervous systems and behaviours of animals. I will present the work of Jaak Panksepp on affective neuroscience, which shows that at least all mammals, and birds too, share a number of brain centers for the same emotional systems. I will also discuss the various emotions of dogs and other animals. Which particular emotions do they have? Pleasure, pain, jealousy, guilt, gratitude? How important are affection and love in the lives of animals? Which animals seem to mourn deceased conspecifics? Can rats, dogs and apes laugh? Can animals have emotional traumas? And what similarities exist between humans and other animals with regard to altered states of consciousness, such as dreaming and being under the influence of psychoactive medication and drugs?

Saturday 19 October: Animal Lectureday 3: Introduction to animal ethics.

Description:

How should we relate to other animals?

How should we relate to other animals?

On this lectureday I will give a review of the most important schools of thought in animal ethics. After a short introduction to philosophy and ethics, and the history of moral thought about nonhuman animals, the most important current philosophers will be presented: Peter Singer and his utilitarian ethics of animal liberation. Tom Regan, who argues for animal rights from a deontological perspective. Philosophers who argue that the presence of sentience or consciousness is sufficient condition for equal moral consideration, such as Gary Francione. Philosophers who make a moral distinction between humans and other animals based on the capacity for language (Frey, Carruthers). Feminist animal ethics which looks at animals with the concepts of care and dialogue. And finally, deep ecology, in which humans and other animals are part of the biosphere. The following questions will be discussed, among others: Is the capacity for self-awareness relevant for the ways in which an animal should be treated? Are some animals replaceable? How can we discern speciesism, discrimination based on species? What are the arguments for equality among all animals? Do all living beings have an inherent value? What should one do if one is in a lifeboat with 3 other humans and 1 dog and one individual has to be thrown overboard in order not to sink the lifeboat? After this presentation of the various schools of thought and positions in animal ethics, a practical part will follow. The participants at the lectureday will be assigned to the most important animal ethics positions. We will then discuss several moral questions or dilemmas and the participants will then have to apply the reasoning of the particular animal ethics position they have been assigned to, to the specific moral dilemma. Examples of these moral dilemmas are the keeping of animals in captivity, like in zoos, but also the recent issues regarding the large herbivores that have been placed in human constructed nature areas such as the Oostvaardersplassen: Is it morally justified not to feed these animals, but cull them during severe winters?

For whom? The Animal Lecturedays are organized for people who work with animals professionally, for students, and for anyone interested in animals and eager to broaden their knowledge about them. A specific former education is not required. The lecturedays 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.

Practical information. All lecturedays will start at 11.00 o’clock in the morning and will end at 17.30 in the afternoon. The costs for attending are 60 euros per person for each lectureday. The registration fee for students (with a student ID card) is 40 euros for each lectureday. This price includes a (vegan) lunch and coffee and tea. People who register for all three lecturedays will get a discount and will pay 160 euros in total. Students who register for all three lecturedays will pay 100 euros in total.

Location: Madame de Pompadour, Langsom 28 in Amsterdam. This location is very well accessible both by car (there is even free parking!) and by public transport.

You can attend all three Animal Lecturedays or one or two of your own choice. You can register by sending a message to estebanyes@gmail.com or by filling out the form below: 

In December I will organize these three Animal Lecturedays at a location in the east or south of The Netherlands. Further information will follow.

Leave a comment

Filed under Animal Cognition, Animal Consciousness, Animal Emotions, Animal Ethics, Language research with animals, Lectures and courses, Veganism/Vegetarianism

Animal Lecturedays in the North (Drenthe)

After the succesfull lectureday about the intelligence of dogs, last April in the province of Drenthe, there was a need for more lecturedays by me. I will return to the Nothern provinces of The Netherlands with two new lecturedays. One about the consciousness and the emotional lives of dogs and other animals. And a day about animal ethics, in which we will discuss the various points of view that exist with regard to the question of how we should treat other animals. The lecturedays are held for all those interested in enriching their knowledge about the consciousness and emotions of animals and who want to increase their knowledge and think about animal ethics. The lecturedays will be held in Zwiggelte in the province of Drenthe. We start at eleven o’clock in the morning and continue until half past five in the afternoon. As usual, the lecturedays will be enlivened by lots of pictures and interesting short videos. At the end of the day you will receive a certificate from the Institute for Animals in Philosophy and Science. Below you will find the information about both lecturedays. Note that both lecturedays will be held in the Dutch language.

See you in Drenthe this September and October!

Sunday 15 September: Lectureday “Consciousness and emotions in animals.”

Can animals feel affection and love?

Can animals feel affection and love?

During this lectureday we will address the question whether other animals besides humans have the ability to experience things like pain and pleasure. Are animals robots without subjective experiences or do animals experience sensations and other things just like us in a phenomenally conscious way? The French philosopher René Descartes claimed that nonhuman animals could not be conscious. Behaviorism in psychology also led to a taboo on the subject of consciousness in general. Even today there are still scholars who do not ascribe consciousness to animals, often based on the absence of ‘higher’ cognitive abilities and language. In contrast are positions that argue for the presence of consciousness in animals by argueing from analogy, using systematic analyses of the nervous systems and behaviours of animals. I will present the work of Jaak Panksepp on affective neuroscience, which shows that at least all mammals, and birds too, share a number of brain centers for the same emotional systems. I will also discuss the various emotions of dogs and other animals. Which particular emotions do they have? Pleasure, pain, jealousy, guilt, gratitude? How important are affection and love in the lives of animals? Which animals seem to mourn deceased conspecifics? Can rats, dogs and apes laugh? Can animals have emotional traumas? And what similarities exist between humans and other animals with regard to altered states of consciousness, such as dreaming and being under the influence of psychoactive medication and drugs?

Sunday 6 October: Lectureday “Introduction to animal ethics.”

How should we relate to other animals?

How should we relate to other animals?

On this lectureday I will give a review of the most important schools of thought in animal ethics. After a short introduction to philosophy and ethics, and the history of moral thought about nonhuman animals, the most important current philosophers will be presented: Peter Singer and his utilitarian ethics of animal liberation. Tom Regan, who argues for animal rights from a deontological perspective. Philosophers who argue that the presence of sentience or consciousness is sufficient condition for equal moral consideration, such as Gary Francione. Philosophers who make a moral distinction between humans and other animals based on the capacity for language (Frey, Carruthers). Feminist animal ethics which looks at animals with the concepts of care and dialogue. And finally, deep ecology, in which humans and other animals are part of the biosphere. The following questions will be discussed, among others: Is the capacity for self-awareness relevant for the ways in which an animal should be treated? Are some animals replaceable? How can we discern speciesism, discrimination based on species? What are the arguments for equality among all animals? Do all living beings have an inherent value? What should one do if one is in a lifeboat with 3 other humans and 1 dog and one individual has to be thrown overboard in order not to sink the lifeboat? After this presentation of the various schools of thought and positions in animal ethics, a practical part will follow. The participants at the lectureday will be assigned to the most important animal ethics positions. We will then discuss several moral questions or dilemmas and the participants will then have to apply the reasoning of the particular animal ethics position they have been assigned to, to the specific moral dilemma. Examples of these moral dilemmas are the keeping of animals in captivity, like in zoos, but also the recent issues regarding the large herbivores that have been placed in human constructed nature areas such as the Oostvaardersplassen: Is it morally justified not to feed these animals, but cull them during severe winters?

Practical information. The Lecturedays are organized for people who work with animals professionally, for students, and for anyone interested in animals and eager to broaden their knowledge about them. A specific former education is not required. The lecturedays 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. Both lecturedays will start at 11.00 o’clock in the morning and will end at 17.30 in the afternoon. They will be held at Logement In Den Groene Specht, Hoofdstraat 13 in Zwiggelte, province of Drenthe. Zwiggelte can be reached from most places in the four northern provinces within 100 kilometers. It can only be reached by car, but if you are dependent on public transport we can probably arrange something for you. Registration fee: 55 euro for each lectureday. For students (with a student ID card) the fee is 35 euro for each lectureday. This includes coffee and tea, and a lunch (vegetarian or vegan lunch can be arranged). For those interested, there is also a possibility to have an informal dinner with me afterwards. In order to register, send a message to estebanyes@gmail.com or by filling out the form below: 

Leave a comment

Filed under Animal Consciousness, Animal Emotions, Animal Ethics, Lectures and courses, Veganism/Vegetarianism

Three Animal Lecturedays

The Institute for Animals in Philosophy and Science is organizing at the end of May and the beginning of June three lecturedays for anyone interested in expanding their knowledge about the intelligence, the consciousness and emotions of animals and about animal ethics. In the past year I organized the Animal Summerlectures and the Animal Winterlectures, in which I presented these subjects as well, but there the time limitation of 3 hours was sometimes inconvenient. For this reason I am now organizing whole lecturedays, so we will have enough time to discuss the subjects and to have questions and good discussions with the audience. The lecturedays will be held in Amsterdam. We will start at 11 o’clock in the morning and we’ll continue until half past 5 in the afternoon. As usual the lecturedays will be enlivened by lots of pictures and interesting short videos. At the end of the day you will receive a certificate from the Institute for Animals in Philosophy and Science. The programme of the three Animal Lecturedays is as follows.

Saturday 25 May: Animal Lectureday 1: Recent research on the intelligence of dogs.

How smart are dogs?

How smart are dogs?

In the past 19 years many new and exciting studies have been carried out on the intelligence or cognition of dogs. Special institutes for intelligence research with dogs have been set up at universities all over the world: the Family Dog Project at the University of Budapest (Adam Miklosi), the department of Comparative and Developmental Psychology at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthroplogy at the University of Leipzig (Juliane Kaminski and Michael Tomasello), the Clever Dog Lab at the University of Vienna (Ludwig Huber), and the Duke Canine Cognition Center at Duke University in the USA (Brian Hare). During this lectureday I will present and discuss the results of all these recent studies with dogs. Central themes are the social and physical intelligence of dogs. Subjects that will be presented are, amongst others: Do dogs understand what humans see, hear or know? What do dogs learn by social observation, is there evidence for imitation in dogs? Do dogs understand human communicative signals, such as pointing and gaze direction? How much evidence exists regarding empathy in dogs? What are the results of language research with dogs? Are dogs able to understand human words? What does dogs’ physical intelligence consists of, what do they know about their physical environment? Are dogs aware that objects keep existing (object permanence), can dogs count? How do they behave in exciting studies such as the magic cup? This lectureday will give you a good review of the current state of affairs of our scientific knowledge about the intelligence of dogs. This will probably change your own view of what dogs are capable of in terms of intelligence.

Saturday 1 June: Animal Lectureday 2: Consciousness and emotions in animals.

During this lectureday we will address the question whether other animals have the ability to experience things like pain and pleasure. Are animals robots without subjective experiences or do animals experience sensations and other things in a phenomenally conscious way? The French philosopher René Descartes claimed that nonhuman animals could not be conscious. Behaviorism in psychology also led to a taboo on the subject of consciousness in general. Even today there are still scholars who do not ascribe consciousness to animals, often based on the absence of ‘higher’ cognitive abilities and language (Bermond, Carruthers). In contrast are positions that argue for the presence of consciousness in animals by argueing from analogy, using systematic analyses of the nervous systems and behaviours of animals. I will present the work of Jaak Panksepp on affective neuroscience, which shows that at least all mammals, and birds too, share a number of brain centers for the same emotional systems. I will also discuss the various emotions of animals. Which particular emotions do they have? Pleasure, pain, jealousy, guilt, gratitude? Which animals seem to mourn deceased conspecifics? And what similarities exist between humans and other animals with regard to altered states of consciousness, such as dreaming and being under the influence of psychoactive medication and drugs?

Saturday 8 June: Animal Lectureday 3: Introduction to animal ethics.

How should we relate to other animals?

How should we relate to other animals?

On this lectureday I will give a review of the most important schools of thought in animal ethics. After a short introduction to philosophy and ethics and the history of moral thought about nonhuman animals, the most important current philosophers will be presented: Peter Singer and his utilitarian ethics of animal liberation. Tom Regan, who argues for animal rights from a deontological perspective. Philosophers who argue that the presence of sentience or consciousness is sufficient condition for moral consideration, such as Gary Francione. Philosophers who make a moral distinction between humans and other animals based on the capacity for language (Frey, Carruthers). Feminist animal ethics which looks at animals with the concepts of care and dialogue. And finally, deep ecology, in which humans and other animals are part of the biosphere. After this presentation of the various schools of thought and positions in animal ethics, a practical part will follow. The participants at the lectureday will be assigned to the most important animal ethics positions. We will then discuss several moral questions or dilemmas and the participants will then have to apply the reasoning of the particular animal ethics position they have been assigned to, to the specific moral dilemma. Examples of these moral dilemmas can be the problem of experimentation with nonhuman animals, but also the recent issues regarding the animals that live in human constructed areas such as the Oostvaardersplassen and the Amsterdam Waterleidingduinen.

Practical information. The Animal Lecturedays are organized for people who work with animals professionally, for students, and for anyone interested in animals and eager to broaden their knowledge about them. A specific former education is not required. The lecturedays 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. All lecturedays will start at 11.00 o’clock in the morning and will end at 17.30 in the afternoon. They will be held at Madame de Pompadour, Langsom 28 in Amsterdam. This location is very well accessible both by car (there is even free parking!) and by public transport. The costs for attending are 60 euros per person for each lectureday. This price includes lunch and coffee and tea. Lunch will be both vegetarian and vegan. You can register for all three Animal Lecturedays or to one of your own choice.

U can register by sending a message to estebanyes@gmail.com or by filling out the form below:

This Fall I am planning to organize multiple-day courses with my Institute for Animals in Philosophy and Science. I will then offer my course on communication and language research with animals, which I have given to various institutes of Higher Education for Older People (HOVO), so that people of all ages, including people younger than 50, can finally also attend this course. I am also busy constructing a new course on the intelligence of all kinds of animals, such as dogs, great apes and birds (corvids and others). Keep following me in order to stay up to date about coming events.

Leave a comment

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

Marc Bekoff in The Netherlands

On Saturday April 2 and Sunday April 3 Marc Bekoff was in The Netherlands for a seminar. The ethologist Marc Bekoff is a former professor of Ecology en Evolutionairy Biology at the University of Colorado in Boulder  and he has done a lot of research and written extensively about play behaviour, morality, emotions and consciousness in animals. He’s done many field studies on the behaviour of wild coyotes and wolves. A few of his most important books are Animal play: Evolutionary, comparative, and ecological perspectives (edited together with John Byers, Cambridge University Press, 1998), The smile of the dolphin: Remarkable accounts of animal emotions (Random House/Discovery Books, 2000), Minding animals: Awareness, emotions, and heart (Oxford University Press, 2002), The cognitive animal: Empirical and theoretical perspectives on animal cognition (edited together with Colin Allen and Gordon Burghardt, MIT Press, 2002), The emotional lives of animals: A leading scientist explores animal joy, sorrow, and empathy and why they matter (New World Library, 2007), Wild justice: The moral lives of animals (together with Jessica Pierce, University of Chicago Press, 2009) and The animal manifesto: Six reasons for expanding our compassion footprint (New World Library, 2010). In 2000 he set up the organization Ethologists for the Ethical Treatment of Animals: Citizens for Responsible Animal Behavior Studies together with chimpanzee expert Jane Goodall.

Marc Bekoff in discussion with the audience

The seminar was organized by Astrid Verkuyl and her colleagues at Dogschool Feedback in Aalsmeer. The seminar itself took place in the tropical garden of Tropisch Rozenland in Burgerveen, where unfortunately enough the airplanes coming and going to Schiphol flew over low, causing the conversation to stop for a while. Otherwise, the organization of the seminar was excellent.

In his seminar Bekoff spoke about the emotions and consciousness of animals, and the moral and play behaviour of animals. He also showed some great videos of playing dogs, coyotes, dolphins, and polar bears. Below I will present some of the interesting things that Bekoff had to say about play in animals.

Charles Darwin already said in The descent of man from 1871 that happiness and pleasure in animals can be seen very well when they play together. Even insects play together: “the lower animals, like man, manifestly feel pleasure and pain, happiness and misery. Happiness is never better exhibited than by young animals, such as puppies, kittens, lambs, etc., when playing together, like our own children. Even insects play together, as has been described by that excellent observer, P. Huber (7. ‘Recherches sur les Moeurs des Fourmis,’ 1810, p. 173), who saw ants chasing and pretending to bite each other, like so many puppies,” p. 61. Where I’d like to mention that nowadays we wouldn’t talk about “lower” animals, the way Darwin does here, but about “other” animals, without there being a ladder from low to high, with humans as the pinnacle. The reference to Huber is something to find out more about, as his research on playing ants sounds very interesting.

Bekoff also said that many birds show play behaviour as well. Play requires cooperation, fairness, on-going negotiations, apology, forgiveness, trust, reading others’ intentions and beliefs (having a theory of mind), and empathy (where Bekoff referred to the possible role of mirror neurons in empathy).

Animals know that they are playing by the following behaviours. First, there are clear play signals, of which the play bow takes place in many animals (dogs and cats, as well as wolves, hyaenas, lions, etc.). These communicative signals are honest in nature. Deceptive use of play signals is extremely rare. Also, in play role reversal takes place. A dominant animal lets him- or herself be dominated in play, like in a chase game where the dominant animal is chased. Furthermore, self-handicapping is shown in play: the animals restrain themselves and don’t bite as hard as they can, but modify it so the playbiting doesn’t hurt. Animals also make continual micro-adjustments of their behaviour in order not to hurt each other. Wildebeests play very roughly, but they take care not to hurt each other with their sharp horns. Finally, the sequences of behaviour during play are very variable: there is hitting, slapping, mounting, jumping and other behaviours. Which is in contrast to for example aggressive behaviour, which is much less variable. In play behaviour we can see behaviours from aggression, mating and predation, but clearly accompanied by play signals and in a variable way.

Marc also showed a very nice video of playing dolphins, studied by Kathleen Dudzinski of the Dolphin Communication Project. Dolphins modify their communicative signals in play. They then approach each other from the side, and not the front, as they do in aggression. There’s also lots of affectionate rubbing with their pectoral fins. He also showed a beautiful video of a polar bear in Brookfield Zoo near Chicago who had grown up without his mother. Another young polar bear showed him his toys in order to get him to play. Eventually the orphan bear started playing at last. Some animals never learn to play again after a trauma like growing up by themselves. By looking at whether animals play or not we can thus learn something about their early development. The emotional well-being of an animal can also be read from its play behaviour.

Eric and the dog Jimmy play with a ball

Animals in the wild play less than domesticated animals. Young wild coyotes play about 2 to 3% and young deer 10% of the time. In the wild there has to be abundant food in order to be able to play, given that play itself costs a lot of energy. Baboon mothers restrict the play of their young when there is less food available. There is also a risk at predation when playing. Domesticated animals are usually provided with enough food and usually don’t run the risk of being the victim of a predator.

Other signals with which dogs, wolves and coyotes initiate play are the following. Besides bowing, they also bark, usually when the play bow has not led to attention from the other animal they want to play with. They also show exaggerated approaches, including a bouncing gait and rushing to one another. They also show face-powing, like a light slap in the face. They approach and withdraw back and forth. And they use subtle movements of the head, eyes, shoulders and whole body.

Bekoff has done extensive research on the play bow. It’s a stereotyped, fixed behaviour that is easy to recognize as a very clear signal that the behaviour that will follow is not aggressive. There are four rules of play in animals: 1. Ask first, 2. Be honest, 3. Mind your manners, and 4. Admit when you’re wrong (for example, dogs make a play bow when they have bitten another to show that they didn’t mean any harm). Marc has also written a fantastic children’s book about play in animals, Animals at play: The rules of the game (Temple University Press, 2008), in which he shows in a clear way the most important aspects of play in animals.

Next Summer Bekoff will be back in The Netherlands. He will then speak at the Minding Animals II conference, which will be held from July 5 to 12, 2012, at the Ethics Institute of the University of Utrecht. This conference will discuss the scientific, ethical and social aspects of humans’ interaction with and use of non-human animals. Click here for more information on the Minding Animals conference. Click here for Marc Bekoff’s website.

Leave a comment

Filed under Animal Communication, Animal Consciousness, Animal Ethics, General