David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Journal of Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology 27 (1):113-118 (2007)
I. Thanks largely to Joshua Knobe, philosophers now frequently empirically investigate the folk psychological concept of intentional action. Knobe (2003, 2004a, 2004b) argues that application of this concept is often surprisingly sensitive to one’s moral views. In particular, it seems that people are much more willing to regard a bit of behavior as intentional, if they think that the action in question is bad or wrong. There is much controversy about both the design and the interpretation of the experiments Knobe has conducted. One concern is that common use of the word ‘intentionally’ seems to be sensitive to matters other than the concept of intentional action. Perhaps the use of the word ‘intentionally’ is also governed by pragmatic thoughts about blameworthiness—if you think N.N. is to be blamed for ф-ing, then you are more likely to say that N.N. is ф-ing intentionally, apart from whether you really judge that the ф-ing was intentional (Adams and Steadman 2004a). One way to neutralize these concerns is to gauge whether people regard an action as intentional, not by asking them whether they would apply the word ‘intentional’ or its cognates to the action in question, but by seeing whether they treat the action as susceptible to reason explanations. After all, if some act of ф-ing is susceptible to a reason explanation, then the act of ф-ing is intentional. Knobe infers that we can see whether a psychological subject regards some act as intentional by seeing whether the subject is willing to say that the bit of behavior can function appropriately in a reasons explanation.
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Joseph Ulatowski (2012). Act Individuation: An Experimental Approach. Review of Philosophy and Psychology 3 (2):249-262.
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