Minds, Morality and Agency

The Institute of Art and Ideas


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What are humans doing when we act morally? Can animals act morally? In this course, Professor Mark Rowlands draws on his unique experience of a decade spent living with a wolf to uncover the flaws in the study of animal morality and examines the relationship between humans and other animals in the modern world. Might the differences between us be less significant than we like to think?

By the end of the course, you will have learned:

the arguments for and against animal consciousness, belief, emotion and agency
why the legacy of Descartes has misled philosophers
when we can justify harm to animals
the philosophy of animal rights
when we can classify beings as moral agents, subjects and patients
whether examples of animal compassion stand up to scrutiny.

As part of the course there are in-video quiz questions to consolidate your learning, suggested further readings to stimulate a deeper exploration of the topic, discussion boards to have your say and an end-of-course assessment set by Professor Rowlands.

IAI Academy courses are designed to be challenging but accessible to the interested student. No specialist knowledge is required.

The end-of-course assessment is available for authentication by our online proctoring partners Software Secure. Lean how you can earn a verified certificate.

Important information

Where and when

Starts Location

What you'll learn on the course

Animal consciousness
Animal rights
Moral agent
Minds of Others
Rights for Life
Act Morally

Course programme

Course Syllabus
  • Part One: The Minds of OthersFrom emotion to beliefs, how do we delve into the minds of animals? Do they explore ours?
  • Part Two: Rights for LifeWhat rights should animals have? Should their interests not be overridden by human concerns?
  • Part Three: Can Animals Be Moral?Do animals act with compassion? If animals are moral, what would it mean for humanity?

Suggested Further Readings

A selection of further readings has been suggested by Professor Rowlands as part of this course. 

Explore Further

Our editors have brought together a range of content from across IAI.tv which explore the ideas in this course.

About the Instructor
  • Mark Rowlands

    Miami-based philosopher Rowlands is most widely known for his best-selling memoir, The Philosopher and the Wolf, about the decade he spent living and travelling with the wild canine of the title.