Seminars and Panels

Do fish feel pain?

Professor Colin Allen

Jan 25, 2012
10:30 A.M. - 12:00 P.M.
232 Philip G. Hoffman Hall

Colin Allen's research involves the philosophical foundations of cognitive science, particularly animal cognition and artificial intelligence. Dr. Allen is a 2010 Humboldt Award recipient and coauthor of Species of Mind, a seminal volume on the philosophy of cognitive ethology. His most recent coauthored book, Moral Machines: Teaching Robots Right from Wrong, is a pioneering treatment of the prospects for ethically responsible machine behavior.

The question of fish pain and consciousness is receiving attention from scientists and policymakers because of increased fishing and fish farming on an industrial scale. Dr. Allen will present a general framework in which the ethical and scientific questions about morality and animal minds intersect.

Surveying the controversy about fish cognition and consciousness, he will argue that because of the huge diversity among fish and the questionable status of 'fish' as a taxonomic category, researchers on both sides of the debate should hesitate to draw sweeping generalizations. However, ethicists and welfare scientists are faced with a dilemma in that learning what they need to know may involve ethically questionable research. Dr. Allen will conclude by considering the extent to which the lessons generalize to other animal research.