Can Nonhuman Animals Have Intentional States?

A new issue on the journal of analytic philosophy Methode: Analytic Perspectives went out this year, on “New perspectives for the Philosophy of Cognitive Science“. It has been edited by Domenica Bruni and Leonardo Caffo.

In it you’ll find a paper on the reasons to claim nonhuman animals can have intentional states, as well as on some related matters. This is the summary of the paper:

According to a set of arguments initially defended by Frey and Davidson, nonhuman animals cannot have intentional states such as beliefs or desires because they lack language and metacognition. In Frey’s preferencialist view, this would entail that nonhuman animals cannot be significantly morally considerable. This paper argues that since not only sentences but also beliefs can be truth tracking, distinguishing truth for falsehood is possible without mastering a language. It also claims that Frey and Davidson’s arguments fail to prove that webs of beliefs and desires cannot be legitimally attributed to nonhuman animals, even if we cannot specify in detail the de dicto content of those intentional states. Finally, it argues that Frey’s version of the preference satisfaction theory is pluralistic and problematic.

The paper is more technical than others that have been posted here, anyway I hope it can be of some interest at least to some of you. Oh, and by the way, please excuse all the linguistic slips I guess it has, which are due to the fact that rush didn’t allow the paper to go through a process of native English-speakers proofreading. You can read the paper here:

Metacognition, Language and the Preference Satisfaction Theory: Can Nonhuman Animals Have Intentional States?


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