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An Ontology of Animal Minds


The symposium’s aim was to bring together and re-examine the broad range of theoretical and methodological perspectives, research and representational practices focused on the multifaceted problem of ‘mentality’ in non-human animals, however diversely the latter may be framed and conceptualized, studied or represented (be this in terms of ‘behaviour’ or ‘cognition’, ‘instinct’ or ‘learning’, ‘neural networks’ or ‘consciousness’, ‘reflex’ or ‘the soul’). The focus was on identifying, understanding and inter-relating the different strategies deployed in making evident, or producing evidence for, the elusive phenomenon of ‘the mind’ in non-human animals.

The interdisciplinary character of the workshop ensured that the question of ‘evidence’ was not reduced to methodological problems specific to one discipline or another. Instead, the issue was framed much more broadly and situated at the complex intersection of ontology, epistemology, ethics and aesthetics. We were alert not only to the variety of distinct disciplinary perspectives, but also to the long history of the problem at hand and to the way in which different cultures and traditions – scientific and non-scientific, past and present – had approached this issue.

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