Rational Animals — 2007

The Teleological Roots of Intentionality

By Mark Okrent

"Work like Okrent's seeks a broader audience within contemporary philosophy, by showing how a line of argument emerging from reflection on Heidegger (and Aristotle, Kant, and Hegel) is crucial to a wide range of work in contemporary philosophy of mind and language. What identifies 'Continental philosophy' at its best nowadays is not textual references or argumentative style, but substantive thematic continuities and argumentative engagement. In these terms, Rational Animals is at the forefront of contemporary Continental philosophy, and indeed, will be the most important book published in this area in some time."

Joseph Rouse, Wesleyan University

Rational Animals: The Teleological Roots of Intentionality offers an original account of the intentionality of human mental states, such as beliefs and desires.

The account of intentionality in Rational Animals is broadly biological in its basis, emphasizing the continuity between human intentionality and the levels of intentionality that should be attributed to animal actions and states.

Establishing the goal-directed character of animal behavior, Mark Okrent argues that instrumentally rational action is a species of goal-directed behavior that is idiosyncratic to individual agents and is distinguished by its novelty and flexibility. He also argues that some nonlinguistic animals are capable of instrumental rationality and that in the first instance, the contents of beliefs and desires are individuated by the explanatory role of those states in ration­ally accounting for such instrumentally rational behavior.

The account of instrumental rationality offered in Rational Animals allows for understanding the practical rationality of linguistically competent human beings as a distinctive capacity of social animals capable of undertaking roles governed by socially sanctioned norms.

Rational Animals will be of interest to cognitive scientists, philosophers of mind, philosophers of biology, philosophers of action, ethologists, and those interested in the debates concerning animal intelligence.


Picture of Mark Okrent

Mark Okrent is a professor of philosophy at Bates College in Maine. He is the author of Heidegger’s Pragmatism as well as numerous articles on intentionality, teleology, Heidegger, and related topics.

Cover of 'Rational Animals'

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