Research Group
in Analytic Philosophy

Intentional Explanations: Simply Autonomous

23 January 2019  |  15:00  |  Seminari de Filosofia UB


In everyday life as well as in cognitive science, we often use intentional explanations, i.e. explanations of behavior that appeal to intentional states. Even the behavior of very simple systems, e.g. prey-catching in toads and navigation in desert ants, is routinely explained in this way. Nevertheless, the epistemic value of intentional explanations has often been called into question, mainly on the grounds that lower-level explanations of behavior are always available in principle. This is especially true for intentional explanations of behavior in simple systems, where lower-level explanations seem to be closely within reach. In my talk, I will propose a novel account of the epistemic value of intentional explanations, based on ideas about difference-making and proportionality. I will argue that intentional explanations possess explanatory autonomy, even in very simple cases. In this way, my account vindicates intentional explanations in a broad range of cases and, in addition to that, helps to render their explanatory autonomy non-mysterious.