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Jun 14, 2022

Animal Minds and Animal Morality with Kristin Andrews and Susana Monsó (podcast)

Two philosophers discuss the role of philosophy in the cross-disciplinary study of animal cognition.

By Templeton Staff

Philosophers Dr. Kristin Andrews and Dr. Susana Monsó are featured in this episode of Many Minds podcast — a project by the Templeton World Charity Foundation-supported Diverse Intelligences Summer Institute. They join host Kensy Cooperrider to discuss the debate around whether or not animals can be thought of as moral beings.

Host cognitive scientist, podcaster, and writer Kensy Cooperrider introduces the episode:

"Your friend is in a bit of distress. They’ve just been dunked in a pool, and they can’t pull themselves out. You’re looking on as they’re paddling furiously, trying to hold onto the pool’s ledge. Fortunately, there’s a way to save your friend, to give them an escape route. The thing is, there’s also something else vying for your attention at the moment: a chunk of chocolate. So what do you do? Do you first nab the chocolate and then free your friend?

Turns out that most rats in this position—that’s right, rats—will first free their friend and then go for the chocolate. This is one of many studies that have raised profound questions about whether animals are moral beings, about whether they are capable of things like care and empathy. Such studies are doing more than raising questions about animal morality, though; they’re also reshaping our understanding of what animal minds are capable of.

My guests today are not one but two philosophers: Dr. Kristin Andrews, Professor of Philosophy at York University in Toronto and Dr. Susana Monsó, Assistant Professor in the Department of Logic, History, and Philosophy of Science at UNED in Spain. Both Susana and Kristin have emerged as central figures in the new conversations and debates that springing about animal minds and animal morality.

We cover a lot of ground in this episode. We talk about rats and empathy. We discuss the role of philosophy in the cross-disciplinary study of animal cognition. We talk about Kristin’s most recent book, which is a critical consideration of how scientists are trained to study animals, and Susana’s book, which is an extended investigation into animals’ understandings of death. We zoom in on the “animal morality debate”—about whether animals should be considered moral beings. We consider how touch might inform the debate and social norms and morality are deeply enmeshed than you may realize. As we navigate these lofty ideas, we also touch on the use of thermography to study emotions in marmosets, planning in orangutans, tongue-biting in orcas, and playing dead in possums."

Play the full episode with the above player.

Learn more about Templeton World Charity Foundation's Diverse Intelligences initiative.

Templeton World Charity Foundation's Diverse Intelligences is a multiyear, global effort to understand a world alive with brilliance in many forms. Its mission is to promote open-minded, forward-looking inquiry in animal, human, and machine intelligences. We collaborate with leading experts and emerging scholars from around the globe, developing high-caliber projects that advance our comprehension of the constellation of intelligences.

Many Minds is a project of the Diverse Intelligences Summer Institute (DISI), made possible through a grant from TWCF to the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). The Many Minds podcast is hosted and produced by Kensy Cooperrider, with help from assistant producer Cecilia Padilla. Creative support is provided by DISI Directors Erica Cartmill and Jacob Foster. Artwork is by Ben Oldroyd.