Normativity without reflectivity: On the beliefs and desires of non-reflective creatures

Hilla Jacobson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


The view (held, e.g., by Davidson) that the having of beliefs and desires presupposes the having of reflective capacities is sometimes supported by appealing to the idea that the concept of belief is a concept of a mental state which involves a normative aspect: beliefs can be "successful" or "unsuccessful" from the perspective of their possessors, and sometimes discarded in light of their "failure." This naturally invites the idea that believers must be capable of reflecting on their beliefs. Desires presuppose reflectivity if only in virtue of their essential linkage with beliefs. This paper suggests a sense in which mental states-including those of non-reflective creatures-can have such a normative aspect. On this suggestion, the intelligible relations that obtain between cognitive states and conative states open the door for the possibility of normativity without reflectivity. Due to these relations, a creature's beliefs can be successful or unsuccessful from its own perspective even without its conceiving of them.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)75-93
Number of pages19
JournalPhilosophical Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2010


  • Animal-beliefs
  • Beliefs
  • Davidson
  • Desires
  • Normativity
  • Reflectivity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Philosophy


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