Instructor: Colin Allen <>
Offices: (1) BH 654 and (2) EG 802 and (3) GY 168 (dog lab)
Office hours*: (1) after class; (2) Tuesdays 3-4 pm; (3) Fridays 2:30-3:30 pm; locations subject to change, so confirm before coming

Course Description
Why do crows go sledding? Do rats remember specific events? Do monkeys understand the meanings of their calls?  Do pigeons have concepts? Do fish feel pain? Do mice show empathy? Are octopuses conscious? Is it dangerously anthropomorphic to ask these questions, or can they be investigated in a scientifically rigorous fashion? Just what do we know about animal cognition and consciousness, or, for that matter, about our own? And what does it imply for our ethical responsibilities towards animals? These are some of questions that are being hotly debated in the field animal cognition — a highly interdisciplinary subject to which psychologists, behavioral biologists, neuroscientists, anthropologists, linguists, and philosophers have all made contributions. The goal of this course is to examine current research in animalcognition with a view to understanding how philosophical and scientific questions about animal minds interact.  Using Kristin Andrews' book The Animal Mind: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Animal Cognition (Routledge 2014) as our guide, we will read a mixture of scientific reports and philosophy articles arguing the case for and against Darwin’s thesis of strong continuity between the mental powers of humans and other animals.


Course assessment is project/portfolio based. You will be led through a series of weekly assignments to develop a multimedia portfolio expanding on the course content. Class time will be allocated to working on these portfolios. Written feedback will be provided at the end of each week to each student. The course will culminate in a final portfolio presentation to the class during the scheduled final time. The course grade will be based 70% on the weekly work (10% each week/module) and 30% on the final portfolio and presentation. Up to a 5% adjustment will be made for outstanding classroom participation.

Classroom Schedule


The course is divided into seven weeks / eight modules: