SOPhiA 2022

Salzburgiense Concilium Omnibus Philosophis Analyticis

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Programm - Vortrag

Animal Reasoning via Conative Salience
(Philosophy of Mind, Englisch)

There has been a recent surge in the literature arguing for non-human animal agency (cf. Arruda and Povinelli 2016; Glock 2017, 2019; Wilcox 2020). These authors converge in two respects: they all agree (i) that some non-human animals are agents, capable of acting for reasons, and (ii) that this is so despite their not being able to understand reasons as reasons. Starting from commitments these authors already share, I argue that some non-human animals actually can conceptualize reasons as reasons via the notion of conative salience.

My paper proceeds in two steps. First, I briefly motivate some minimal conditions for regarding non-human animals as agents. In particular, I show that all one needs to be committed to is internalism about rationality (cf. Williams 1981), an ability account of concepts (cf. Allen 1999; Glock 2010), and factualism about reasons (cf. Alvarez 2009, 2010) - commitments the aforementioned authors share. More importantly, in a second step, I then argue for a minimal understanding of what it means to conceptualize reasons as reasons via the notion of conative salience. Roughly, understanding x as a reason for &_966;-ing is to understand it as that in virtue of which a specific course of action or object appeared desirable in the agent's eyes (i.e. in the guise of the good). I thus propose a minimal understanding of practical reasons that construes them as sources of conative salience. After motivating and defending this notion, I close by surveying evidence that suggests that some non-human animals elicit such an understanding of reasons (Krupenye and Call 2019; Lewis and Krupenye 2021).

The upshot of my argument is twofold. First and foremost, if what I am arguing is correct, then any of the aforementioned accounts can actually hold that animals are capable of conceptualizing reasons as reasons. Second, I propose that the notion of conative salience can explain our regarding certain facts as practical reasons, hence somewhat vindicating reasons internalism. Moreover, this notion should also shed some light on the idea of practical reasoning for non-necessary means by way of the guise of the good. In particular, it would point towards understanding practical reasoning primarily by way of its "goodness- transmitting" feature (cf. Anscombe 1957).


Allen, Colin. 1999. "Animal Concepts Revisited: The Use of Self-Monitoring as an Empirical Approach." Erkenntnis 51 (1): 33-40.

Alvarez, Maria. 2009. "How many kinds of reasons?" Philosophical Explorations 12 (2): 181-193.

---. 2010. Kinds of Reasons: An Essay in the Philosophy of Action. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Anscombe, G. E. M. 1957. Intention. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Arruda, Caroline T., and Daniel J. Povinelli. 2016. "Chimps as secret agents." Synthese 193 (7): 2129-2158.

Glock, Hans-Johann. 2010. "Can animals judge?" Dialectica 64 (1): 11-33.

---. 2017. "Animal rationality and belief." In The Routledge Handbook of Philosophy of Animal

Minds, 89-99. New York, NY: Routledge.

---. 2019. "Agency, Intelligence and Reasons in Animals." Philosophy 94 (4): 645-671.

Krupenye, Christopher, and Josep Call. 2019. "Theory of mind in animals: Current and future directions." Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Cognitive Science 10 (6): e1503.

Lewis, Laura S., and Christopher Krupenye. 2021. "Theory of mind in nonhuman primates." In Primate Cognitive Studies, edited by B. L. Schwartz and M. J. Beran. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Wilcox, Marc G. 2020. "Animals and the agency account of moral status." Philosophical Studies 177 (7): 1879-1899.

Williams, Bernard. 1981. "Internal and External Reasons." In Moral Luck, 101-113. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Chair: Jakob Roloff
Zeit: 10:00-10:30, 08. September 2022 (Donnerstag)
Ort: HS E.002

Martin Niederl
(University of Vienna, Österreich)

Testability and Meaning deco