However, Korsgaard's real innovation is to suggest that incentives are incorporated into principles not merely by humans (and other similarly rational beings) but also by non-human animals. Korsgaard's rationale for this view is that we need to distinguish between two different kinds of behaviour. One would be were the presence of food caused us to salivate, the other would be were the smell of it led us to move in its direction. In the second case it is not merely that the action in question is an appropriate response, it is also grasped as being appropriate. So whilst the first response of salivation might simply be taken to be automatic, the second cannot be treated in this way but is instead a result of the incorporation of the incentive to act in a relevant way into a maxim (or something akin to one).
Following this line of reasoning we view the second type of action, whoever it is performed by, as a normative response. Additionally Korsgaard regards this second kind of action in two distinct ways which she takes to be compatible with each other. The first way is to term this action as "instinctive" whilst the second is to describe it as "intelligent". The connection between the two is made by defusing a certain kind of view of "instinct". The general view that Korsgaard means to dislodge is that instinct is merely a kind of behaviour that is innate and does not require learning. The response she is viewing as "instinctive" is one that is clearly learned and so to argue that these responses are instinctive is to challenge the conception of "instinct" that confines instinctive behaviour to innate responses.
Once this expanded conception of instinct is accepted it becomes easier to see instinctive behaviour as intelligent since what is involved in so viewing it is seeing it as the ability to respond creatively to evolving situations. On these grounds there is little problem with viewing much non-human animal behaviour as intelligent.
The final element of Korsgaard's account is distinguishing intelligence in this sense from "reason". I would interpret "intelligence", in Korsgaard's sense, as involving a kind of "self-consciousness" since its operation is a form of learned response to the environment. However, Korsgaard wishes to distinguish this form of "self-consciousness" (as I view it) from the kind involved in the exercise of reason. In the latter case, on her view, we are not only "conscious" of objects of attraction and aversion and of principles of behaviour in relation to them but also conscious of the ground of our responses as being grounds or principles.
The self-conscious grasp not merely of a relation to an environment in terms of appropriateness but also of the active sense of this relation through the self-conscious articulation of principles as principles leads to the question of whether an action is the right one to perform. So rational action is not merely normative but self-conscious of its normativity.
I'll look in future postings at some of the results of Korsgaard's view of reasoning and what it implies for the conception of practical reasoning. But in this posting the key point I want to make is that the undeniably useful element of her analysis is that it makes perspicuous that in indicating that there are beings that are intelligent without being rational it serves to analytically separate the two notions from each other and this is important since the denial of the power of reasoning to non-human animals is often taken to be equivalent to a denial of their intelligence. If the denial of reasoning power really was equivalent to the denial of intelligence this would be a reductio of the notion of reason itself.
A final point worth making which Korsgaard does not draw out, however, is that it appears from her analysis that there are two kinds of view of "maxims" since the intelligent but non-rational being has the capacity to arrive at maxims and these maxims are distinct from those of the rational being. Is it the case however that rational beings often act on maxims of a intelligent but non-rational type and, if so, what are the means by which incentives can be incorporated into the more elevated rational form of maxim?