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Charting Control‐Space: Comments on Susan Hurley's ‘Animal Action in the Space of Reasons’

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Hurley is right to reject the dichotomy between intentional agents and mere stimulus/response habit machines, and she is also right in thinking that it is important to map the space of systems for the adaptive control of behaviour. So there is much in this paper with which I agree. My disagreement concerns folk psychology. Hurley thinks that control space can be charted by asking whether and to what extent animals are intentional agents. In contrast, I doubt that the concepts of folk psychology, especially folk psychology construed as an interpretative practice, are the right mapping tools. If the main function of folk psychology is to make sense of one another, co‐ordinate joint action, or make decisions about moral and legal responsibility, then there is no point in applying folk psychological notions to nonhuman minds. These interpretative functions simply do not arise for our interaction with non‐human minds, and if folk psychology serves largely as a social tool serving them, there is no need to apply it to non‐humans, nor is there a reasonable expectation that we can usefully do so. If folk psychology does not even carve our sensing and control mechanisms at the joints, if it is not a good theory of human cognitive architecture, then it is not likely to be well‐suited for describing those of nonhuman agents.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 June 2003

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