Conscious reflection versus Embodied Habits: The Human Mind from a Nonhuman Perspective


A recent movement in the philosophy of mind engages with the study of animal cognition to counter our tendency to model cognition in general mainly on human consciousness. Since it is now widely recognized that human behaviour is to a large extent the result of unconscious, ‘subpersonal’ processes, paradoxically, a notion of cognition that is not based on human consciousness can help us understand human cognition better. ‘De-anthropomorphizing’ cognition, however, is harder than it seems: the assumption that animals think, decide, remember in the same way as we seem to do—namely, as conscious, brain-based reflection—is implicit, but ubiquitous in thinking about animal minds.
The proposed research project therefore aims to develop a non-anthropocentric understanding of cognition. It takes its cue from the so-called Skilled Intentionality Framework (SIF), which defines cognition as the way organisms respond to possibilities for action offered by their environments. Because the SIF is currently applied to human cognition only, stage one of the project aims to integrate SIF with the notion of ‘embodied habits’—something we do skilfully without consciously thinking—to make it applicable to nonhuman cognition as well. Stage two consists of a case study, in which decision-making in humans and several nonhuman animals will be scrutinized. The project contributes to a new field of academic inquiry in which the relation between human and animal minds is discussed. The implications of this contribution for philosophy of mind, empirical animal research, cognitive science and ethics will be charted in the final stage.





Prof. dr. M.V.P. Slors

Verbonden aan

Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen, Faculteit der Filosofie, Theologie en Religiewetenschappen, Filosofie


01/09/2019 tot 31/08/2023