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Profile: Joshua Knobe (Yale University)
  1. Joshua Knobe, Paul Bloom & David Pizarro, College Students Implicitly Judge Interracial Sex and Gay Sex to Be Morally Wrong.
    College students implicitly judge interracial sex and gay sex to be morally wrong Some moral intuitions arise from psychological processes that are not fully accessible to consciousness. For instance, most people disapprove of consensual adult incest between siblings, but are unable to articulate why—they just feel that it is wrong (Haidt, 2001). More generally, there is evidence for at least two sources of moral judgment: explicit conscious reasoning and tacit intuitions, which are motivated by emotional responses (Greene et al., 2001) (...)
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  2. Joshua Knobe & Jesse Prinz, Experimental Studies of Intuitions About Consciousness: Methodological and Statistical Details.
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  3. Joshua Knobe (forthcoming). Free Will and the Scientific Vision. In Edouard Machery & Elizabeth O.’Neill (eds.), Current Controversies in Experimental Philosophy. Routledge.
    A review of existing work in experimental philosophy on intuitions about free will. The paper argues that people ordinarily understand free human action, not as something that is caused by psychological states (beliefs, desires, etc.) but as something that completely transcends the normal causal order.
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  4. Joshua Knobe, Tania Lombrozo & Shaun Nichols (eds.) (forthcoming). Oxford Studies in Experimental Philosophy. Oxford University Press.
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  5. Joshua Knobe, Tania Lombrozo & Shaun Nichols (eds.) (forthcoming). Oxford Studies in Experimental Philosophy, Volume 1. Oxford University Press.
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  6. Joshua Knobe & Seth Yalcin (forthcoming). Epistemic Modals and Context: Experimental Data. Semantics and Pragmatics.
    Recently, a number of theorists (MacFarlane (2003, 2011), Egan et al. (2005), Egan (2007), Stephenson (2007a,b)) have argued that an adequate semantics and pragmatics for epistemic modals calls for some technical notion of relativist truth and/or relativist content. Much of this work has relied on an empirical thesis about speaker judgments, namely that competent speakers tend to judge a present-tense bare epistemic possibility claim true only if the prejacent is compatible with their information. Relativists have in particular appealed to judgments (...)
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  7. Zoltán Gendler Szabó & Joshua Knobe (forthcoming). Modals with a Taste of the Deontic. Semantics and Pragmatics.
    The aim of this paper is to present an explanation for the impact of normative considerations on people’s assessment of certain seemingly purely descriptive matters. The explanation is based on two main claims. First, a large category of expressions are tacitly modal: they are contextually equivalent to modal proxies. Second, the interpretation of predominantly circumstantial or teleological modals is subject to certain constraints which make certain possibilities salient at the expense of others.
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  8. Anna Jenkins, David Dodell-Feder, Rebecca Saxe & Joshua Knobe (2014). The Neural Bases of Directed and Spontaneous Mental State Attributions to Group Agents. PLoS ONE 9.
    In daily life, perceivers often need to predict and interpret the behavior of group agents, such as corporations and governments. Although research has investigated how perceivers reason about individual members of particular groups, less is known about how perceivers reason about group agents themselves. The present studies investigate how perceivers understand group agents by investigating the extent to which understanding the ‘mind’ of the group as a whole shares important properties and processes with understanding the minds of individuals. Experiment 1 (...)
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  9. Joshua Knobe & Shaun Nichols (eds.) (2014). Experimental Philosophy: Volume 2. OUP USA.
    Experimental Philosophy: Volume 2 contains fourteen articles -- thirteen previously published and one new -- that reflect the fast-moving changes in the field over the last five years.
     
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  10. George E. Newman, Julian De Freitas & Joshua Knobe (2014). Beliefs About the True Self Explain Asymmetries Based on Moral Judgment. Cognitive Science 38 (6).
    Past research has identified a number of asymmetries based on moral judgments. Beliefs about (a) what a person values, (b) whether a person is happy, (c) whether a person has shown weakness of will, and (d) whether a person deserves praise or blame seem to depend critically on whether participants themselves find the agent's behavior to be morally good or bad. To date, however, the origins of these asymmetries remain unknown. The present studies examine whether beliefs about an agent's “true (...)
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  11. Brent Strickland, Matthew Fisher, Frank Keil & Joshua Knobe (2014). Syntax and Intentionality: An Automatic Link Between Language and Theory-of-Mind. Cognition 133 (1):249–261.
    Three studies provided evidence that syntax influences intentionality judgments. In Experiment 1, participants made either speeded or unspeeded intentionality judgments about ambiguously intentional subjects or objects. Participants were more likely to judge grammatical subjects as acting intentionally in the speeded relative to the reflective condition (thus showing an intentionality bias), but grammatical objects revealed the opposite pattern of results (thus showing an unintentionality bias). In Experiment 2, participants made an intentionality judgment about one of the two actors in a partially (...)
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  12. Joshua Knobe, Sandeep Prasada & George Newman (2013). Dual Character Concepts and the Normative Dimension of Conceptual Representation. Cognition 127 (2):242-257.
    Five experiments provide evidence for a class of ‘dual character concepts.’ Dual character concepts characterize their members in terms of both (a) a set of concrete features and (b) the abstract values that these features serve to realize. As such, these concepts provide two bases for evaluating category members and two different criteria for category membership. Experiment 1 provides support for the notion that dual character concepts have two bases for evaluation. Experiments 2-4 explore the claim that dual character concepts (...)
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  13. Joshua Knobe & Richard Samuels (2013). Thinking Like a Scientist: Innateness as a Case Study. Cognition 126 (1):72-86.
  14. Alex Shaw & Joshua Knobe (2013). Not All Mutualism is Fair, and Not All Fairness is Mutualistic. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 36 (1):100 - 101.
    The target article convincingly argues that mutualistic cooperation is supported by partner choice. However, we will suggest that mutualistic cooperation is not the basis of fairness; instead, fairness is based on impartiality. In support of this view, we show that adults are willing to destroy others' resources to avoid inequality, a result predicted by impartiality but not by mutualistic cooperation.
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  15. Wesley Buckwalter, Joshua Knobe, Shaun Nichols, N. Ángel Pinillos, Philip Robbins, Hagop Sarkissian, Chris Weigel & Jonathan M. Weinberg (2012). Experimental Philosophy. Oxford Bibliographies Online (1):81-92.
    Bibliography of works in experimental philosophy.
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  16. Florian Cova, Julien Dutant, Edouard Machery, Joshua Knobe, Shaun Nichols & Eddy Nahmias (eds.) (2012). La Philosophie Expérimentale. Vuibert.
    La philosophie expérimentale est un mouvement récent qui tente de faire progresser certains débats philosophiques grâce à l'utilisation de méthodes expérimentales. À la différence de la philosophie conventionnelle qui privilégie l'analyse conceptuelle ou la spéculation, la philosophie expérimentale préconise le recours aux études empiriques pour mieux comprendre les concepts philosophiques. Apparue il y a une dizaine d'années dans les pays anglo-saxons, cette approche constitue actuellement l'une des branches les plus dynamiques de la philosophie contemporaine. -/- L'objectif de cet ouvrage est (...)
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  17. Joshua Knobe, Wesley Buckwalter, Philip Robbins, Hagop Sarkissian, Tamler Sommers & Shaun Nichols (2012). Experimental Philosophy. Annual Review of Psychology 63 (50):72-73.
    Experimental philosophy is a new interdisciplinary field that uses methods normally associated with psychology to investigate questions normally associated with philosophy. The present review focuses on research in experimental philosophy on four central questions. First, why is it that people's moral judgments appear to influence their intuitions about seemingly nonmoral questions? Second, do people think that moral questions have objective answers, or do they see morality as fundamentally relative? Third, do people believe in free will, and do they see free (...)
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  18. Jonathan Schaffer & Joshua Knobe (2012). Contrastive Knowledge Surveyed. Noûs 46 (4):675-708.
    Suppose that Ann says, “Keith knows that the bank will be open tomorrow.” Her audience may well agree. Her knowledge ascription may seem true. But now suppose that Ben—in a different context—also says “Keith knows that the bank will be open tomorrow.” His audience may well disagree. His knowledge ascription may seem false. Indeed, a number of philosophers have claimed that people’s intuitions about knowledge ascriptions are context sensitive, in the sense that the very same knowledge ascription can seem true (...)
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  19. Brent Strickland, Matt Fisher & Joshua Knobe (2012). Moral Structure Falls Out of General Event Structure. Psychological Inquiry 23 (2):198-205.
    The notion of agency has been explored within research in moral psychology and, quite separately, within research in linguistics. Moral psychologists have suggested that agency attributions play a role in moral judgments, while linguists have argued that agency attributions play a role in syntactic intuitions. -/- To explore the connection between these two lines of research, we report the results of an experiment in which we manipulate syntactic cues for agency and show a corresponding impact on moral judgments. This result (...)
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  20. Joshua Knobe (2011). Finding the Mind in the Body. In Max Brockman (ed.), Future Science: Essays from the Cutting Edge. Random House. 184-196.
  21. Joshua Knobe (2011). Is Morality Relative? Depends on Your Personality. The Philosophers' Magazine 52 (52):66-71.
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  22. Joshua Knobe & Shaun Nichols (2011). Free Will and the Bounds of the Self. In Robert Kane (ed.), Oxford Handbook of Free Will. Oxford.
    If you start taking courses in contemporary cognitive science, you will soon encounter a particular picture of the human mind. This picture says that the mind is a lot like a computer. Specifically, the mind is made up of certain states and certain processes. These states and processes interact, in accordance with certain general rules, to generate specific behaviors. If you want to know how those states and processes got there in the first place, the only answer is that they (...)
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  23. Jonathan Phillips, Luke Misenheimer & Joshua Knobe (2011). The Ordinary Concept of Happiness (and Others Like It). Emotion Review 71 (3):929-937.
    Consider people’s ordinary concept of belief. This concept seems to pick out a particular psychological state. Indeed, one natural view would be that the concept of belief works much like the concepts one finds in cognitive science – not quite as rigorous or precise, perhaps, but still the same basic type of notion. But now suppose we turn to other concepts that people ordinarily use to understand the mind. Suppose we consider the concept happiness. Or the concept love. How are (...)
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  24. Hagop Sarkissian, John Park, David Tien, Jennifer Wright & Joshua Knobe (2011). Folk Moral Relativism. Mind and Language 26 (4):482-505.
    It has often been suggested that people's ordinary understanding of morality involves a belief in objective moral truths and a rejection of moral relativism. The results of six studies call this claim into question. Participants did offer apparently objectivist moral intuitions when considering individuals from their own culture, but they offered increasingly relativist intuitions considering individuals from increasingly different cultures or ways of life. The authors hypothesize that people do not have a fixed commitment to moral objectivism but instead tend (...)
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  25. C. Daryl Cameron, Joshua Knobe & B. Keith Payne (2010). Do Theories of Implicit Race Bias Change Moral Judgments? Social Justice Research 23:272-289.
    Recent work in social psychology suggests that people harbor “implicit race biases,” biases which can be unconscious or uncontrollable. Because awareness and control have traditionally been deemed necessary for the ascription of moral responsibility, implicit biases present a unique challenge: do we pardon discrimination based on implicit biases because of its unintentional nature, or do we punish discrimination regardless of how it comes about? The present experiments investigated the impact such theories have upon moral judgments about racial discrimination. The results (...)
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  26. Joshua Knobe (2010). Action Trees and Moral Judgment. Topics in Cognitive Science 2 (3):555-578.
    It has sometimes been suggested that people represent the structure of action in terms of an action tree. A question now arises about the relationship between this action tree representation and people’s moral judgments. A natural hypothesis would be that people first construct a representation of the action tree and then go on to use this representation in making moral judgments. The present paper argues for a more complex view. Specifically, the paper reports a series of experimental studies that appear (...)
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  27. Joshua Knobe (2010). Person as Scientist, Person as Moralist. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 33 (4):315.
    It has often been suggested that people’s ordinary capacities for understanding the world make use of much the same methods one might find in a formal scientific investigation. A series of recent experimental results offer a challenge to this widely-held view, suggesting that people’s moral judgments can actually influence the intuitions they hold both in folk psychology and in causal cognition. The present target article distinguishes two basic approaches to explaining such effects. One approach would be to say that the (...)
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  28. Joshua Knobe (2010). The Person as Moralist Account and its Alternatives. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 33 (4):353-365.
    The commentators offer helpful suggestions at three levels: (1) explanations for the particular effects discussed in the target article; (2) implications of those effects for our understanding of the role of moral judgment in human cognition; and (3) more theoretical questions about the overall relationship between ordinary cognition and systematic science. The present response takes up these three issues in turn.
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  29. Joshua Knobe & John Doris (2010). Responsibility. In John Doris & The Moral Psychology Research Group (eds.), The Moral Psychology Handbook. Oxford University Press.
    Much of the agenda for contemporary philosophical work on moral responsibility was set by Strawson’s (1962) essay ‘Freedom and Resentment.’ In that essay, Strawson suggests that we focus not so much on metaphysical speculation as on understanding the actual practice of moral responsibility judgment. The hope is that we will be able to resolve the apparent paradoxes surrounding moral responsibility if we can just get a better sense of how this practice works and what role it serves in people’s lives. (...)
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  30. Joshua Knobe & John M. Doris (2010). Responsibility. In John Michael Doris (ed.), The Moral Psychology Handbook. Oxford University Press.
    A great deal of fascinating research has gone into an attempt to uncover the fundamental criteria that people use when assigning moral responsibility. Nonetheless, it seems that most existing accounts fall prey to one counterexample or another. The underlying problem, we suggest, is that there simply isn't any single system of criteria that people apply in all cases of responsibility attribution. Instead, it appears that people use quite different criteria in different kinds of cases. [This paper was originally circulated under (...)
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  31. Joshua Knobe, Tania Lombrozo & Edouard Machery (2010). Editorial: Dimensions of Experimental Philosophy. Review of Philosophy and Psychology 1 (3):315-318.
    Editorial: Dimensions of Experimental Philosophy Content Type Journal Article Pages 315-318 DOI 10.1007/s13164-010-0037-9 Authors Joshua Knobe, Program in Cognitive Science and Department of Philosophy, Yale University, New Haven, CT USA Tania Lombrozo, Department of Psychology, UC Berkeley, 3210 Tolman Hall, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA Edouard Machery, Department of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Pittsburgh, 1017 CL, Pittsburgh, PA 15260, USA Journal Review of Philosophy and Psychology Online ISSN 1878-5166 Print ISSN 1878-5158 Journal Volume Volume 1 Journal Issue Volume (...)
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  32. Joshua Knobe, Tania Lombrozo & Edouard Machery (2010). Editorial: Psychology and Experimental Philosophy. Review of Philosophy and Psychology 1 (2):157-160.
    Recent years have seen an explosion of new work at the intersection of philosophy and experimental psychology. This work takes the concerns with moral and conceptual issues that have so long been associated with philosophy and connects them with the use of systematic and well-controlled empirical investigations that one more typically finds in psychology. Work in this new field often goes under the name "experimental philosophy".
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  33. Tamar A. Kreps, Benoît Monin & Joshua Knobe (2010). Are Mental States Assessed Relative to What Most People “Should” or “Would” Think? Prescriptive and Descriptive Components of Expected Attitudes. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 33 (4):341.
    For Knobe, observers evaluate mental states by comparing agents' statements with the attitudes they are expected to hold. In our analysis, Knobe's model relies primarily on what agents should think, and little on expectancies of what they would think. We show the importance and complexity of including descriptive and prescriptive norms if one is to take expectancies seriously.
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  34. Hagop Sarkissian, Amita Chatterjee, Felipe De Brigard, Joshua Knobe, Shaun Nichols & Smita Sirker (2010). Is Belief in Free Will a Cultural Universal? Mind and Language 25 (3):346-358.
    Recent experimental research has revealed surprising patterns in people's intuitions about free will and moral responsibility. One limitation of this research, however, is that it has been conducted exclusively on people from Western cultures. The present paper extends previous research by presenting a cross-cultural study examining intuitions about free will and moral responsibility in subjects from the United States, Hong Kong, India and Colombia. The results revealed a striking degree of cross-cultural convergence. In all four cultural groups, the majority of (...)
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  35. Christopher Hitchcock & Joshua Knobe (2009). Cause and Norm. Journal of Philosophy 106 (11):587-612.
    Much of the philosophical literature on causation has focused on the concept of actual causation, sometimes called token causation. In particular, it is this notion of actual causation that many philosophical theories of causation have attempted to capture.2 In this paper, we address the question: what purpose does this concept serve? As we shall see in the next section, one does not need this concept for purposes of prediction or rational deliberation. What then could the purpose be? We will argue (...)
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  36. Yoel Inbar, David A. Pizarro, Joshua Knobe & Paul Bloom (2009). Disgust Sensitivity Predicts Intuitive Disapproval of Gays. Emotion 9 (3): 435– 43.
    Two studies demonstrate that a dispositional proneness to disgust (“disgust sensitivity”) is associated with intuitive disapproval of gay people. Study 1 was based on previous research showing that people are more likely to describe a behavior as intentional when they see it as morally wrong (see Knobe, 2006, for a review). As predicted, the more disgust sensitive participants were, the more likely they were to describe an agent whose behavior had the side effect of causing gay men to kiss in (...)
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  37. Joshua Knobe (2009). Answers to Five Questions. In Jesús H. Aguilar & Andrei A. Buckareff (eds.), Philosophy of Action: 5 Questions. Automatic Press.
    Back when I was a college freshman, I started working as a research assistant to a young graduate student named Bertram Malle. I hadn’t actually known very much about Malle’s work when I first signed up for the position, but as luck would have it, he was a brilliant researcher with an innovative new approach. Malle was interested in understanding people’s ordinary intuitions about intentional action – the way in which people’s ascriptions of belief, desire, awareness and so forth ultimately (...)
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  38. Joshua Knobe (2009). Folk Judgments of Causation. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 40 (2):238-242.
    When scientists are trying to uncover the causes of a given outcome, they often make use of statistical information. Thus, if scientists wanted to know whether there was a causal relationship between attending philosophy lectures and learning philosophy, they might randomly assign students to either attend or not attend certain lectures and then check to see whether those who attended the lectures ended up learning more philosophy than those who did not.
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  39. Joshua Knobe & Sean D. Kelly (2009). Can One Act for a Reason Without Acting Intentionally? In Constantine Sandis (ed.), New Essays on the Explanation of Action. Palgrave Macmillan. 169--183.
     
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  40. Joshua Knobe & Erica Preston‐Roedder (2009). The Ordinary Concept of Valuing. Philosophical Issues 19 (1):131-147.
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  41. Joshua Knobe & Erica Roedder (2009). The Ordinary Concept of Valuing. In Ernest Sosa & Enrique Villanueva (eds.), Metaethics. Wiley Periodicals, Inc.. 131-147.
    The concept of valuing plays an important role in the way we think about people’s attitudes toward the things they care about most. We invoke this concept in sentences like: I value your friendship. We need to find a leader who truly values political equality. To live a good life, one must always return to the things one values most. Yet there also seem to be cases in which a person has a strong desire for a particular object but in (...)
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  42. Dean Pettit & Joshua Knobe (2009). The Pervasive Impact of Moral Judgment. Mind and Language 24 (5):586-604.
    Shows that the very same asymmetries that arise for intentionally also arise from deciding, desiring, in favor of, opposed to, and advocating. It seems that the phenomenon is not due to anything about the concept of intentional action in particular. Rather, the effects observed for the concept of intentional action should be regarded as just one manifestation of the pervasive impact of moral judgment.
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  43. Jonathan Phillips & Joshua Knobe (2009). Moral Judgments and Intuitions About Freedom. Psychological Inquiry 20 (1):30-36.
    Reeder’s article offers a new and intriguing approach to the study of people’s ordinary understanding of freedom and constraint. On this approach, people use information about freedom and constraint as part of a quasi-scientific effort to make accurate inferences about an agent’s motives. Their beliefs about the agent’s motives then affect a wide variety of further psychological processes, including the process whereby they arrive at moral judgments. In illustrating this new approach, Reeder cites an elegant study he conducted a number (...)
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  44. Fiery Cushman, Joshua Knobe & Walter Sinnott-Armstrong (2008). Moral Appraisals Affect Doing/Allowing Judgments. Cognition 108 (2):353-380.
    An extensive body of research suggests that the distinction between doing and allowing plays a critical role in shaping moral appraisals. Here, we report evidence from a pair of experiments suggesting that the converse is also true: moral appraisals affect doing/allowing judgments. Specifically, morally bad behavior is more likely to be construed as actively ‘doing’ than as passively ‘allowing’. This finding adds to a growing list of folk concepts influenced by moral appraisal, including causation and intentional action. We therefore suggest (...)
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  45. Joshua Knobe (2008). Can a Robot, an Insect or God Be Aware? Scientific American.
  46. Joshua Knobe (2008). Folk Psychology: Science and Morals. In Daniel Hutto & Matthew Ratcliffe (eds.), Folk Psychology Reassessed. Springer Press.
    It is widely agreed that folk psychology plays an important role in people’s moral judgments. For a simple example, take the process by which we determine whether or not an agent is morally blameworthy. Although the judgment here is ultimately a moral one, it seems that one needs to use a fair amount of folk psychology along the way. Thus, one might determine that an agent broke the vase intentionally and therefore conclude that she is blameworthy for breaking it. Here (...)
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  47. Joshua Knobe & Ben Fraser (2008). Causal Judgment and Moral Judgment: Two Experiments. In Walter Sinnott-Armstrong (ed.), Moral Psychology. MIT Press.
    It has long been known that people’s causal judgments can have an impact on their moral judgments. To take a simple example, if people conclude that a behavior caused the death of ten innocent children, they will therefore be inclined to regard the behavior itself as morally wrong. So far, none of this should come as any surprise. But recent experimental work points to the existence of a second, and more surprising, aspect of the relationship between causal judgment and moral (...)
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  48. Joshua Knobe & Shaun Nichols (eds.) (2008). Experimental Philosophy. Oxford University Press.
    The present volume provides an introduction to the major themes of work in experimental philosophy, bringing together some of the most influential articles in ...
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  49. Joshua Knobe & Jesse J. Prinz (2008). Intuitions About Consciousness: Experimental Studies. [REVIEW] Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 7 (1):67-83.
    When people are trying to determine whether an entity is capable of having certain kinds of mental states, they can proceed either by thinking about the entity from a *functional* standpoint or by thinking about the entity from a *physical* standpoint. We conducted a series of studies to determine how each of these standpoints impact people’s mental state ascriptions. The results point to a striking asymmetry. It appears that ascriptions of states involving phenomenal consciousness are sensitive to physical factors in (...)
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