(2012) Anscombe on Animal Intention

Martin Gustafsson


Lecture in Bergen 2012, Oct. 18. In Intention §2, Elizabeth Anscombe argues that “a cat’s movements in stalking a bird are hardly to be called an expression of intention”, and that Wittgenstein went wrong in thus speaking of the “natural expression of an intention” (cf. Philosophical Investigations, §647). According to Anscombe, an expression of intention is always conventional. Nevertheless, she insists that speechless brutes have intentions. This paper offers an interpretation of Anscombe’s view. It is argued that the distinction she makes between the non-conventional manifestations of intentions among speechless brutes and conventional expressions of intentions among language-using creatures amounts to a substantial and important distinction between behaviours that themselves constitute steps towards reaching the intended goal and behaviours (utterances) that are typically not in that sense part of the realization of the intention. This interpretation is further clarified by means of the rejection of an alternative reading proposed by Richard Moran and Martin Stone in their 2009/2011 paper, “Anscombe on Expression of Intention: An Exegesis”.


philosophy; Wittgenstein Ludwig; 20th century philosophy; Anscombe Elizabeth; animal; bird; intention; expression; natural expression; convention; language

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