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British Wittgenstein Society Lecture - Dr Ian Ground on Animal Minds

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  • BWS
    BWS Ludwig Wittgenstein Lecture Series (LWLS) The Tenth BWS Lecture will be delivered by Dr Ian Ground (University of Sunderland) Title: Listen to the Lion:
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 15, 2013

      BWS Ludwig Wittgenstein Lecture Series (LWLS)

      The Tenth BWS Lecture will be delivered by Dr Ian Ground (University of Sunderland)

      Title: Listen to the Lion: Wittgenstein and Animal Minds (see abstract below)

      At the University of Hertfordshire, De Havilland Campus, Room R135
      Tuesday 14 May 2013 at 5 pm (a wine reception will follow)


      Our intellectual traditions remain deeply conflicted about the nature, and even the existence, of minds other than the human. On the one hand, empirical inquiries reveal ever greater surprises about the cognitive capacities of other animals - capacities, which, in the human case, we explain in terms of concept possession. Yet, within philosophy, arguments that deny non-linguistic animals the possession of concepts remain current and, to many, compelling, motivating a sceptical view of the conclusions of the animal sciences.

      The stand-off between sceptical and anti-sceptical positions about animal minds is interestingly acute for those sympathetic to the philosophy of Wittgenstein. Very often empirical studies of animals are presented in terms which Wittgenstein did or would have resisted, for example, the ‘Theory’ Theory of Mind. Yet, often too, sceptical positions trade in currencies which, in the human case, Wittgensteinians reject; for example, super-rigid determinacy of sense. This leaves some in the unstable position of being Wittgensteinian about mind and meaning in the case of humans but neo-Cartesian in the case of animals.

      Following a survey and analysis of Wittgenstein's remarks about animals, I will distinguish and disarm different kinds of sceptical position about the existence and nature of non-human animal minds. I will then use examples from the ethological sciences, to establish a principle of parity: that philosophical arguments concerning mind and meaning that are compelling in the human case, are, without additional arguments to the contrary, also so in the animal case.

      The lecture will conclude that the contribution of Wittgenstein's thought to our understanding of other animal minds is not confined to apercus about shameless dogs and unintelligible lions. Correctly understood, it provides the basis of a methodological framework for the continued progress of ethological science.


      Dr Ground's principal research interests are in aesthetics and the philosophy of mind particularly in regard to the minds of other animals. For Sunderland University, he leads the national award winning Explore Programme.  His publications include Can We Understand Animal Minds? (1998) and 'Do Animals Need a Theory of Mind? in Against Theory of Mind (2009), both co-authored with M. Bavidge, as well as Art or Bunk? (1989) and 'Must We Mean What We Play?' in Creative Chords: Studies in Music (2000).

      The event is free, but registration is required. Please email bws@...
      How to get to the conference venue

      Bus timetable from/to London
      Map of the campus: Parking is complimentary, but you will need a voucher. Simply ask for one when registering for the lecture.

      If you would like to become a member of the British Wittgenstein Society, please send an email to bws@... stating your affiliation and/or focus of interest in Wittgenstein.

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