B. van Woerkum MA (Bas)
PhD candidate - Philosophy of Mind and Language
6525 HT NIJMEGEN
6500 HD NIJMEGEN
We share this world with numerous other species. These species differ from us in considerable ways: some have wings, spend much of their days in the air and can sense the earth’s magnetic field. Others have flippers, live in the open oceans and communicate using echolocation. What are the minds of these animals like? In what ways are they similar to us? What makes each of them unique?
We often attempt to answer such questions by defining essential features of an ability in humans and looking for similar features in other animals. However, this results in a bias towards species that intuitively resemble us in some sense: being social, having large brains and behaving flexibly in a general sense. This will inevitably lead us to view the minds of nonhuman animals as precursors or otherwise lesser versions of ourselves.
In my NWO project "Conscious Reflection versus Embodied Habits: Human Cognition from a Nonhuman Perspective", I aim to develop a less human-centred view on animal minds, by understanding the cognitive capacities of nonhuman animals (corvids in particular) as ‘elaborations’ on their abilities to act and perceive in the world. This avoids looking for the ‘human-like’ in other animals, and allows us to understand what it means to be any kind of animal.
Research grants and prizes
- 2019 - NWO PhD in the Humanities
- 14 July 2020 - Public lecture [in Dutch]: 'Why animals are not humans, but humans are animals' at Radboud Reflects @ Home. More information
- 14 September 2021 - Public lecture [in Dutch]: 'How should we understand the intelligence of animals? at Studium Generale Utrecht More information