Philosophy of Animal Research

How do we know if animals have a mind? Expanding on the previous debate on human-animal relations, the philosophy of animal research analyses the conditions and contexts of the scientific acquisition of our knowledge of animals.


The current debates within animal philosophy and also within various branches of the so-called Human-Animal-Studies revolve around the three central questions of whether we can ascribe a mind to animals, what the difference between humans and animals is, and how humans should behave (morally correct) towards animals. So far, however, in the attempt to find answers to these questions, little or no consideration is given to the mediated character of our knowledge about animals. Our knowledge is initially mediated to the extent that we usually take our knowledge about animals from empirical research without reflecting on the conditions and contexts of the production of this knowledge. But it is also mediated insofar as the sciences themselves attain their insights only in a methodically mediated form.


These methods, but also the theories and concepts of empirical research on animals, have not yet been addressed in the field of animal philosophy. The project is intended to close this gap. In this project I have developed a new approach that opens up a new field of research, raises its own specific questions, but also provides fruitful new insights. In accordance with the three central questions of the current debate on animal philosophy, the aim of my work could also be formulated as an overarching fourth question: "How do we know whether animals can think? More precisely, it is a matter of identifying the methodological, ontological and epistemological presuppositions of research approaches in the fields of cognitive ethology and comparative psychology. With this approach, controversies in the aforementioned fields are pointed out and thus the critical points of this research become clear. In this way, it is possible to identify individual research approaches and to analyze them in terms of their fundamental presuppositions and make them comparable with one another.

Contributions to the Project Philosophy of Animal Research

Wunsch, Matthias; Böhnert, Martin; Köchy, Kristian (Ed.) (2018): Philosophie der Tierforschung. Bd. 3: Milieus und Akteure. Freiburg: Karl Alber.

Köchy, Kristian; Wunsch, Matthias; Böhnert, Martin (Ed.)(2016): Philosophie der Tierforschung. Bd. 2: Maximen und Konsequenzen. Freiburg: Karl Alber.

Böhnert,Martin; Köchy, Kristian; Wunsch, Matthias (Ed.)(2016): Philosophie der Tierforschung. Bd. 1: Methoden und Programme. Freiburg: Karl Alber.

Edited volumes

with Kristian Köchy und Matthias Wunsch (Ed.) (2016, 2016, 2018): Philosophie der Tierforschung. Three volumes. Freiburg: Karl Alber.

Papers (selection)

with Hilbert, Christopher (2018): Other minds than ours – A controversial discussion on the limits and possibilities of comparative psychology in the light of Lloyd Morgan’s work. In: History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences, 40(3), 27.07.2018, doi: 10.1007/s40656-018-0211-4 (Online via ResearchGate).

with Kranke, Nina (2018): Riot Grrrl Primatology. Über Forscherinnen, Feminismus und feministische Wissenschaften. In: Wunsch, Matthias; Böhnert, Martin; Köchy, Kristian (Hrsg.): Philosophie der Tierforschung. Bd. 3: Milieus und Akteure. Freiburg: Karl Alber, S. 325-374. (Online via ResearchGate).

with Hilbert, Christopher (2016): C. Lloyd Morgans Canon. Über den Gründervater der komparativen Psychologie und den Stellenwert epistemischer Bedenken. In: Böhnert, Martin; Köchy, Kristian; Wunsch, Matthias (Hrsg.): Philosophie der Tierforschung. Bd. 1: Methoden und Programme. Freiburg: Karl Alber, S. 149-183.

Talks (seletion)

Uses of Anecdote in Nineteenth Century Comparative Psychology (with Robert Meunier, Kassel), Workshop Narrative Science Projects supervised by Mary S. Morgan. London School of Economics, 06.11.2019.

Zur Plausibilität wissenschaftlicher Tatsachen am Beispiel der Erforschung des Geistes von Tieren, Forschungskolloquium Moritz-Schlick-Forschungsstelle supervised by Matthias Wunsch. Universität Rostock, 25.06.2019.

Methodologische Signaturen – Ein philosophischer Systematisierungsversuch von Forschungsansätzen in der kognitiven Verhaltensforschung, CAST-Kolloquium (Centre for Anthropological Knowledge in Scientific and Technological Cultures) supervised by Christina Brandt. Ruhr-Universität-Bochum, 20.12.2018.