Science Communication

Stirling Science Festival 2023

Family activity day

14 October 2023

Discovering the power of teamwork in research!
The Stirling Science Festival Family Day gave us the perfect opportunity to demonstrate the power of interdisciplinary research.

We spent the day offering families the chance to work together to build spaghetti towers and complete puzzles to show how we can bring together experts from different fields to tackle challenging questions.

We thank the Royal Institute of Philosophy Local Partner for financial support.

Glasgow Science Festival 2023

We had a great time at the Botanic Gardens for Glasgow Science Festival. Thank you to everyone who stopped to say hello and engage with some challenging question about human and animal minds. And thank you to all the children who took the time to draw us some lovely pictures.

We thank the Royal Institute of Philosophy Local Partner for financial support.


Public Lectures

Mark Rowlands

Public lecture by Prof Mark Rowlands, introduced by Dr Giacomo Melis.

We thank the Royal Institute of Philosophy Local Partner for financial support.

Erica Fudge

Prof. Erica Fudge

Friday 13 October 2023

University of Stirling

Public lecture by Prof Erica Fudge, introduced by Dr Giacomo Melis.

What were the animals thinking? The differences between theory and practice in early modern ideas

In early modern thought a philosophical orthodoxy, emerging out of Aristotelian and Christian ideas, held that animals were incapable of thinking like humans; that they lacked the crucial immaterial essence, the rational soul, that gave ‘mankind’ (it was definitely men who were the assumed focus) its special status. The beasts, so the argument went, responded only instinctively to sensory prompts, whereas humans could go beyond those prompts into the realm of the abstract, and could imagine, reason, remember. At the same time as this set of assumptions about animal (lack of) reason was so dominant in printed discussions, however, there was an alternative perspective. When we turn from the library to the field – from theory to practice – something very different can be found. James VI and I, for example, was convinced his hunting hounds could perform abstract calculations; and the great horse trainer William Cavendish knew his horses were capable of acts of memory, and that, in fact, training was premised on that capacity. And then there were the cows. This talk will trace these different perspectives, and show how far theoretical discussion missed out ideas of animal capacity that were so visible, and vital, to those who worked and lived closely with them. It will make the case that the early modern past was not only the site of beast-machines and human exceptionalism, but was also home to conceptions and experiences of animal thinking and skill that was crucial to successful cross-species collaboration

Ludwig Huber

Public lecture by Prof Ludwig Huber, introduced by Dr Giacomo Melis.

Café Philosophique

Stirling Science Festival 2023

Dr Giacomo Melis made a short presentation on the relation between human and animal intelligence. We then had a lively philosophical discussion in which the whole group participated.

Are animals rational in a way similar to humans are, or do they have a different kind of intelligence? Many philosophers think that rationality is uniquely human, and yet cognitive ethology suggests that the minds of humans and animals are pretty similar. After a short introduction on the arguments pro and against animal rationality, we’ll wonder what rationality might be and which subjects may possess it.

Theme by the University of Stirling

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