Animal Minds: Agency, Thought and Communication

International Conference, September 27 – 29 2019

Do some non-human animals share at least certain mental capacities with humans, and if so, which ones? Answers to this question depend both on factual findings concerning the nature and capacities of animals and on how one construes contested concepts such as that of a mind and more specific notions. The conference approaches animal mentality from a transdisciplinary perspective and focuses on interconnected aspects of animal mentality that continue to be contested in spite of recent discoveries by cognitive ethology:

  1. Do recent discoveries about the behaviour and cognition of highly intelligent animals clinch the case for crediting them with higher mental capacities such as thought and other intentional states of a propositional kind?
  2. How should one respond to the ‘determination problem’ of specifying the content of such states in non-linguistic animals incapable of expressing what they believe?
  3. What is the role of animal communication and animal language studies in addressing the question of animal minds?
  4. How is complex animal behaviour to be characterized? Does it qualify as agency, intentional agency, acting for a reason? How is the capacity to act for a reason related to intelligence and ratiocination?

The conference brings together internationally renowned experts, not just concerning animal minds in general but concerning these issues in particular.

Confirmed Speakers

  • Colin Allen (Pittsburgh)
  • Kristin Andrews (Toronto)
  • Dorit Bar-On (Connecticut)
  • Judith Burkart (Zürich)
  • Hans-Johann Glock (Zürich)
  • Albert Newen (Bochum)
  • Christoph C. Pfisterer (Zürich)
  • Peter Schulte (Zürich)
  • Christine Sievers (Vienna)
  • Markus Wild (Basel)
  • Klaus Zuberbühler (Neuchâtel)


Kutscherhaus, Zollikerstrasse 115, 8008 Zürich, Switzerland (Room: ZOB-E–2)


Attendance is free and open to all, but numbers are limited. Please register by emailing to by September 15 2019. We have some open slots for respondents; if you are interested in commenting on a paper, please contact us early.


Hans-Johann Glock (Zürich), Christoph C. Pfisterer (Zürich) The event is funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation.