SOPhiA 2021

Salzburgiense Concilium Omnibus Philosophis Analyticis

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Programme - Talk

Actions, Reasons, and Animals
(Philosophy of Mind, )

A Glock (Forthcoming) presents a series of arguments for the thesis that non-linguistic animals are capable of acting rationally and for a reason. These capabilities notwithstanding, he still denies them the ability to conceive of reasons as reasons. This is because he holds that language is plausibly necessary for the possession of concepts as abstract as that of a reason. In this paper, I will argue that Glock need not - and, if he is to be consistent, should not - deny that non-linguistic animals are capable of conceptualizing reasons as reasons. So if Glock's account is plausible, my arguments should remove further conceptual barriers for our regarding animals as the cognitively complex beings they most likely are. To argue for the thesis that animals can conceptualize reasons as reasons, I will apply received minimal criteria for concept possession to the concepts of a reason and of intention. My main argument will thus be twofold. First, I will directly argue for the idea that animals can conceptualize reasons as reasons according to Glock's (2010) and Dretske's (2006) accounts of concept possession. These accounts center around the ability to classify objects, facts, etc. and deliberately discriminate between tokens of one type rather than another. The argument will proceed in two steps. The first is to argue that conceptualizing reasons as reasons is to conceptualize them as sources of conative salience. Then, I will show that animals can plausibly classify objects and facts as sources of conative salience - that is, as that in virtue of which a course of action seems good in their eyes. Hence, animals can conceptualize reasons as reasons. Plausibly, however, understanding reasons as reasons requires the ability to understand intentions as such. Hence, secondly, I will refer to empirical data gathered by Held et al. (2001) suggesting that animals attribute intentions to others. As I will argue, this entails that animals can conceptualize intentions according to the same criteria as outlined above. If the ability to conceptualize intentions really is necessary for conceptualizing reasons, this research should provide further plausibility to the claim that animals can conceptualize reasons as reasons. I thus present two independent arguments, providing two different but interlocking reasons why we (or at least Glock) should hold that animals can conceptualize reasons as reasons. In that way I expand upon Glock's (Forthcoming) account of animals as rational agents capable of acting for a reason by adding a further capability to their repertoire: they can also plausibly conceptualize reasons as reasons. Since the final verdict is, of course, to be reached through empirical means, I will be content with having proven its conceptual possibility, as well as its intuitive plausibility.

Chair: Matej Drazil
Time: 15:20-15:50, 09 September 2021 (Thursday)
Location: SR 1.005

Martin Niederl 
(University of Vienna, )



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