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Department of Philosophy


Publication details for Professor Matthew Ratcliffe

Ratcliffe M. (2002). Evolution and Belief: the Missing Question. Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 33(1): 133-150.
  • Publication type: Journal papers: academic

Author(s) from Durham


In this paper, I address the question of what an evolutionary account of intentional states should look like. I suggest that many accounts rest on the (usually implicit) assumption that, so far as intentionality is concerned, differences between animal species should be understood solely in terms of comparative sophistication. I argue that this assumption is misguided. Accounts ignore an important biological distinction between functional and anatomical characterisations and seek to explain comparative differences that are symptomatic of functional divergence by appealing solely to a cognitive analogue of anatomical complexity. This results in accounts that are fundamentally incomplete or beside the point.