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Philosophy Program presents

"Why We Can't Say What Animals Think"

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Jake Beck 
Assistant Professor of Philosophy  
York University

The more we learn about non-human animals, the more we learn how intelligent they are.  Rats and pigeons have the ability to navigate and count.  Chimpanzees can create tools and read minds.  It seems, in short, that non-human animals are capable of sophisticated types of thinking.  Yet our attempts to say what animals think face an embarrassing difficulty: when we try to use words to characterize animal thoughts, our articulations always seem to mischaracterize them.  How can this be?  If animals really have thoughts, why can't anyone say what those thoughts are?  In my talk, I will criticize several familiar answers to this question and then defend an alternative explanation that appeals to differences in the structure of animal thought and human language.  


Time: 4:45 pm

Location: Olin, Room 201