Animals as reflexive thinkers: The aponoian paradigm

In Linda Kalof (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Animal Studies. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 319-341 (2017)
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The ability to engage in reflexive thought—in thought about thought or about other mental states more generally—is regarded as a complex intellectual achievement that is beyond the capacities of most nonhuman animals. To the extent that reflexive thought capacities are believed necessary for the possession of many other psychological states or capacities, including consciousness, belief, emotion, and empathy, the inability of animals to engage in reflexive thought calls into question their other psychological abilities. This chapter attacks the idea that reflexive thought is required in this pervasive way and holds that supposing that it is derives from a tendency among philosophers and scientists toward overcomplication. Against this tendency, it recommends an aponoian framework, from apó, “away from” and noûs, “intelligence” or “thought,” arguing that seemingly complex psychological abilities are often not as complex as they seem, and do not require the ability to engage in reflexive thought.

Author Profiles

Mark Rowlands
University of Miami
Susana Monsó
Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia


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