The benefits of rule following: A new account of the evolution of desires

Armin W. Schulz
University of Kansas
A key component of much current research in behavioral ecology, cognitive science, and economics is a model of the mind at least partly based on beliefs and desires. However, despite this prevalence, there are still many open questions concerning both the structure and the applicability of this model. This is especially so when it comes to its ‘desire’ part: in particular, it is not yet entirely clear when and why we should expect organisms to be desire-based—understood so as to imply that they consult explicit tokenings of what they ought to do—as opposed to being drive-based—understood so as to imply that they react to the world using behavioral reflexes. In this paper, I present the beginnings of an answer to this question. To do this, I start by showing that an influential recent attempt to address these issues—due to Kim Sterelny—fails to be fully successful, as it does not make sufficiently clear what the relative benefits and disadvantages of drive-based and desire-based cognitive architectures are. I then present an alternative account of this matter based on the idea that organisms that can follow explicit behavioral rules avoid having to memorize a large set of state of the world–action connections—which can be adaptive. Finally, I apply this account to the question of what the cognitive value of mental representations should be seen to be; here, I conclude that—contrary to some recent claims—relying on mental representations can make decision making easier, not harder, but also that—in line with these recent claims—whether it does so depends on the details of the case.
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1016/j.shpsc.2013.09.006
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

Our Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 43,049
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

Knowing One's Own Mind.Donald Davidson - 1987 - Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association 60 (3):441-458.
The Humean Theory of Motivation.Michael Smith - 1987 - Mind 96 (381):36-61.
Rational Animals.Donald Davidson - 1982 - Dialectica 36 (4):317-28.
Pushmi-Pullyu Representations.Ruth Garrett Millikan - 1995 - Philosophical Perspectives 9:185-200.

View all 32 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

The Natural History of Desire.David Spurrett - 2015 - South African Journal of Philosophy 34 (3):304-313.
Altruism, Egoism, or Neither: A Cognitive-Efficiency-Based Evolutionary Biological Perspective on Helping Behavior.Armin W. Schulz - 2016 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 56:15-23.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Desire Fulfillment and Posthumous Harm.Douglas W. Portmore - 2007 - American Philosophical Quarterly 44 (1):27 - 38.
Second-Order Desire Accounts of Autonomy.Dennis Loughrey - 1998 - International Journal of Philosophical Studies 6 (2):211 – 229.
The Desires of Others.Berislav Marušić - 2010 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 91 (3):385-400.
The Status of the Knowledge Account of Assertion.Frank Hindriks - 2007 - Linguistics and Philosophy 30 (3):393-406.
The Fundamental Principle of Practical Reasoning.Ralph Wedgwood - 1998 - International Journal of Philosophical Studies 6 (2):189 – 209.
How to Think About Rules and Rule Following.Karsten R. Stueber - 2005 - Philosophy of the Social Sciences 35 (3):307-323.
The Frustrating Problem For Four-Dimensionalism.A. P. Taylor - 2013 - Philosophical Studies 165 (3):1097-1115.
Hume's Theory of Motivation.Daniel Shaw - 1989 - Hume Studies 15 (1):163-183.


Added to PP index

Total views
47 ( #174,154 of 2,260,782 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
3 ( #485,112 of 2,260,782 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes

Sign in to use this feature