Philosophy and the Folk: On Some Implications of Experimental Work For Philosophical Debates on Free Will

Journal of Cognition and Culture 6 (1):239-254 (2006)
I discuss experimental work by Nichols, and Nichols and Knobe, with respect to the philosophical problems of free will and moral responsibility. I mention some methodological concerns about the work, but focus principally on the philosophical implications of the work. The experimental results seem to show that in particular, concrete cases we are more willing to attribute responsibility than in cases described abstractly or in general terms. I argue that their results suggest a deep problem for traditional accounts of compatibilism, and that they may cast some light on the literature surrounding Frankfurt cases. I also suggest a way in which mature philosophical convictions about free will may reflect a contingent process of refining and defending either of two competing strands of intuitions, and suggest that this may partly explain the persistence of philosophical debates about free will.
Keywords Experimental Philosophy  Free Will  Shaun Nichols  Moral Responsibility  Folk beliefs
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