Besides the philosophical importance of this question there is a practical purpose in understanding the thinking of animals. For example, if you are a horsebackrider or otherwise interact with animals it is useful to know what your animal can and cannot understand.
This lecture/workshop given by Ad de Stoppelaar* takes about one hour and a half.
After a small introduction into philosophy we start attacking the question by analysing the thinking we all know the best, the thinking of human beings. Surprisingly it is not that obvious to us how we do that thinking, as we are doing it all the time.
Are pictures enough for thinking or do we need language? It will be shown that pictures alone are not enough. If pictures alone fall short we must explain how thinking is possible without words, because animals have no words available. There seem to be three different levels of animal thinking. And it can be shown that the brain "talks" within itself in a special "language of thought" (Mentalese) without the need for a natural language for example English. The structure of this mental language contains five elements and these can be demonstrated. It is very advantageous to know how this mental "talking" of the different species of animals differs from ours. Otherwise said, which of the five elements are absent in the brain of my horse? With that knowledge, you can understand which command can be understood by your horse and which one makes it unsure.
At the end of the lecture some attention will be given to an interesting similarity between autism and the thinking of animals.
* Ad de Stoppelaar ( MA, BA Philosophy, Leiden University), during his studies, already developed a special interest in the philosophy of thinking, especially the thinking animals do. He works nowadays as a philosophical consultant and teaches philosophy . As a guest speaker at a school for autistic children some years ago, he was asked to be a coach for clients with aspergerssyndrom, a field in which he now has a number of years of experience.