Intentional action and the semantics of gradable expressions (On the Knobe Effect)

In B. Copley & F. Martin (eds.), Causation in Grammatical Structures. Oxford University Press (forthcoming)
This paper examines an hypothesis put forward by Pettit and Knobe 2009 to account for the Knobe effect. According to Pettit and Knobe, one should look at the semantics of the adjective “intentional” on a par with that of other gradable adjectives such as “warm”, “rich” or “expensive”. What Pettit and Knobe’s analogy suggests is that the Knobe effect might be an instance of a much broader phenomenon which concerns the context-dependence of normative standards relevant for the application of gradable expressions. I adduce further evidence in favor of this view and go on to examine the predictions one obtains when assuming that “intentional” involves a two-dimensional scale, which implies evaluating how much an action or outcome is desired on the one hand, and how much it can be foreseen as a consequence of one’s actions on the other.
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