Colin Allen

Professor of Cognitive Science and History & Philosophy of Science; Director, Indiana University Cognitive Science Program

Allen photo
Title: “Learning About Animal Consciousness from Animal Learning.”
Abstract: It is often asserted that nonhuman animals live only in the present moment. But even single-celled organisms integrate inputs through time in order to drive adaptive behavior. Since the time of William James, several scientists and philosophers have argued on primarily introspective grounds that conscious experience cannot be understood without taking its temporal dynamics seriously. Many learning tasks also involve a significant temporal dimension, and there is independent evidence from humans that consciousness is more intimately involved in some types of learning than in others. Because these types of learning can and have been investigated in nonhuman animals, I will explore the question of what animal learning can reveal about animal consciousness.


Bio: Colin Allen is Provost Professor of Cognitive Science and of History & Philosophy of Science in the College of Arts and Sciences at Indiana University, Bloomington, where he has been a faculty member since 2004. He is a member of IU’s Center for the Integrative Study of Animal Behavior and the Program in Neuroscience, and he also holds an adjunct appointment in the Department of Philosophy. He currently serves as director of IU’s Cognitive Science program and also holds adjunct positions at Arizona State University and Xi’an Jiaotong University, Xi’an, China. Allen’s main area of research is on the philosophical foundations of cognitive science, particularly with respect to nonhuman animals. He is interested in the scientific debates between ethology and comparative psychology, and current issues arising in cognitive ethology. He has also published on other topics in the philosophy of mind and philosophy of biology, and artificial intelligence. His most recent book is Moral Machines: Teaching Robots Right from Wrong (Oxford University Press 2009), coauthored with Wendell Wallach.

Animal Consciousness: Evidence and Implications

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