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Workshop "Self in Time. Prospective Cognition in Animals and Humans"

"Self in Time. Prospective Cognition in Animals and Humans"

30 July – 1 August 2015
Venue: Munich Center for Ethics (room M214), Geschwister-Scholl-Platz 1, 80539 Munich

For registration, please contact Felicitas Selter

Organization and chair

Stephan Sellmaier, Professor at the Research Center for Neurophilosophy and Ethics of Neurosciences, Munich.
Felicitas Selter, PhD student at the Research Center for Neurophilosophy and Ethics of Neurosciences at the Graduate School of Systemic Neurosciences, Munich.
Markus Wild, Professor of Theoretical Philosophy at the University of Basel, CH.



As humans, we are constantly acting with the future in mind. We make plans, be it for the next hours, weeks or even decades, we pursue longterm projects and accept a lot of blood, sweat and tears that might lie along the way. We do so, because we understand that we have a personal past, present, and future. In Locke’s wording, we have a sense of ourselves as continuant beings in time. Animals (and young children), in contrast, are said to be “stuck in time”, living their cognitive lives entirely in the present moment. Even though certain animals like chimpanzees or corvids show impressive memorizing abilities and prospective skills, some authors suggest that they merely “know” the relevant information but not remember or pre-experience the related situation. Instead of projecting themselves into the past or the future, these animals are believed to retrieve the relevant information via semantic WhatWhereWhen-processing, constantly “updating” their knowledge of the world. Other authors are confident that these animals’ behavior reveals underlying cognitive mechanisms resembling our own. Others doubt the significance of episodic cognition at all and argue for a shift of emphasis on semantic cognition instead.
Currently, future-oriented episodic cognition is one of the most hotly debated topics in the field of animal cognition. This workshop aims to contribute to this discussion by bringing together major proponents of different sides. Empirical findings by scientists working in the field of comparative cognition and psychology will serve as an impetus for three days of discussing the studies’ explanatory forces with regard to diachronic self-awareness and concern for one’s future self. What are the differences between animals and humans, on the one hand, and between adults, children and episodic amnesic patients, on the other hand? What do these differences amount to on the behavioral level? Are they substantive or is diachronic self-awareness merely a matter of degree? And, above all, how are the philosophical concepts of self, time, identity, and memory connected in this context? The workshop will develop initial answers to these and other related questions. Since this touches upon many different fields of research, the workshop will place an emphasis on interdisciplinary perspectives.


Preliminary timetable

Confirmed speakers and abstracts

Cameron Buckner, "Semantic Memory and Episodic Memory: What’s the Difference, Again?"

Nicky Clayton and Clive Wilkins, "The Spoon Lecture: Relativity and Anchors in Time"

Christoph Hoerl, "Episodic thinking and theory of mind: a connection reconsidered"

Ivo Jacobs, "Causality and time: a fundamental connection"

Can Kabadayi, "Prospective cognition in corvids in a non-caching context: ravens can plan for a token exchange"

Gema Martin-Ordas, "With the future in mind: towards a comprehensive understanding of the evolution of future-oriented cognition"

Teresa McCormack, "Temporal Concepts and Three Ways of Thinking About the Future"

Mathias Osvath, "Putting flexible animal prospection into context: escaping the theoretical box"

Valerie Soon, "The Moral Significance of Animal Time and Memory"




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