People ordinarily make sense of their own behavior and that of others by invoking concepts like belief, desire, and intention. Philosophers refer to this network of concepts and related principles as 'folk psychology.' The prevailing view of folk psychology among philosophers of mind and psychologists is that it is a proto-scientific theory whose function is to explain and predict behavior.
People ordinarily make sense of their own behavior and that of others by invoking concepts like belief, desire, and intention. Philosophers refer to this network of concepts and related principles as ‘folk psychology.’ The prevailing view of folk psychology among philosophers of mind and psychologists is that it is a proto-scientific theory whose function is to explain and predict behavior. Recent studies call this view into question by suggesting that moral considerations play an essential role in the application of certain (...) folk-psychological concepts (Knobe 2003a, 2003b, 2004; Knobe & Burra forthcoming; Nadelhoffer forthcoming). If the function of folk psychology were just to predict and explain behavior, moral considerations wouldn’t have any obvious role to play. Since they do play a role, it seems probable that folk psychology has a function other than, or at least in addition to, that of predicting and explaining behavior. It is our assumption—an assumption our interlocutors presumably share—that, since moral considerations play an essential role in the application of certain folk-psychological concepts, getting clear on the nature and extent of this role is indispensable to arriving at a proper understanding of folk psychology. Nadelhoffer’s paper addresses the importance of moral considerations to the application of a specific folk-psychological concept—the concept of intentional action. He is concerned to explain, in particular, why people are more likely to regard a sideeffect of an action as brought about intentionally when that side-effect is harmful than when it is beneficial. His hypothesis is that one’s judgment as to whether a given sideeffect was brought about intentionally is influenced by the amount of praise or blame one assigns. Since people typically blame the agent for bad side-effects but don’t praise the agent for good ones, Nadelhoffer claims, they tend to regard bad side-effects as intentional and good ones as unintentional. (shrink)
Editorial: Dimensions of Experimental Philosophy Content Type Journal Article Pages 315-318 DOI 10.1007/s13164-010-0037-9 Authors JoshuaKnobe, 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 1, Number 3. (shrink)
It is often implied, and sometimes explicitly asserted, that folk psychology is best understood as a kind of predictive device. The key contention of this widely held view is that people apply folk-psychological concepts because the application of these concepts enables them to predict future behavior. If we know what an agent believes, desires, intends, etc., we can make a pretty good guess about what he or she will do next. It seems to me that this picture is not quite (...) right. In a series of recent papers, my colleagues and I have presented data that suggests that moral considerations actually play an important role in folk psychology (Knobe 2003a; 2003b; 2004; Knobe & Burra forthcoming; Knobe & Mendlow forthcoming). These findings do not sit well with the view according to which folk psychology is best understood as a predictive device. It appears that folk psychology might be better understood as a kind of multi-purpose tool. It is used not only in making predictive judgments but also in making moral judgments, and both of these uses appear to have shaped the fundamental competencies that underlie it. One of the most important forms of evidence in this debate comes from studies of the distinction people draw between intentional and unintentional behavior. These studies indicate that people’s intuitions as to whether or not a behavior was performed intentionally can be influenced by their beliefs about the moral status of the behavior.. (shrink)
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 (...) it seems that one starts out with a folkpsychological judgment (that the agent acted intentionally) and then uses it as input to a process that eventually yields a moral judgment (that the agent is blameworthy). Many other cases have a similar structure. In recent years, however, a number of studies have shown that there are also cases in which the arrow of causation goes in the opposite direction. That is, there appear to be cases in which people start out with a moral judgment and then use it as input to a process that eventually yields a folk-psychological judgment (Knobe 2003a, 2003b, 2004, 2005a, 2005b). These findings come as something of a surprise, and it can be difficult to know just what to make of them. My own view is that the findings are best explained by the hypothesis that moral considerations truly do play a role in people’s underlying folk-psychological concepts (Knobe 2003b, 2004, forthcoming). The key claim here is that the effects revealed in recent experiments are not the result of any kind of ‘bias’ or ‘distortion.’ Rather, moral considerations truly do figure in a fundamental way in the issues people are trying to resolve when they grapple with folk-psychological questions. I must confess, however, that not all researchers in the field share this view. Although many have been convinced that moral considerations actually do play a role in folk-psychological concepts, others have suggested that there might be better ways to account for the results of recent experiments.. (shrink)
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 public as having intentionally encouraged gay men to kiss publicly— even though most participants did not explicitly think it wrong to encourage gay men to kiss in public. No such effect occurred when subjects were asked about heterosexual kissing. Study 2 used the Implicit Association Test (IAT; Nosek, Banaji, & Greenwald, 2006) as a dependent measure. The more disgust sensitive participants were, the more they showed.. (shrink)
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 (...) in one conversational context but false in another. This purported fact about people’s intuitions serves as one of the main pieces of evidence for epistemic contextualism. (shrink)
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 (...) that one can gain an important clue here by looking at the ways in which causal judgments are shaped by people‘s understanding of norms. (shrink)
It used to be a commonplace that the discipline of philosophy was deeply concerned with questions about the human condition. Philosophers thought about human beings and how their minds worked. They took an interest in reason and passion, culture and innate ideas, the origins of people’s moral and religious beliefs. On this traditional conception, it wasn’t particularly important to keep philosophy clearly distinct from psychology, history, or political science. Philosophers were concerned, in a very general way, with questions about how..
An empirical study of people's intuitions about freedom of the will. We show that people tend to have compatiblist intuitions when they think about the problem in a more concrete, emotional way but that they tend to have incompatiblist intuitions when they think about the problem in a more abstract, cognitive way.
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 (...) arose through the interaction of other states and processes, which arose from others... until, ultimately, the chain goes back to factors in our genes and our environment. Hence, one can explain human behavior just by positing a collection of mental states and psychological processes and discussing the ways in which these states and processes interact. This picture of the mind sometimes leaves people feeling deeply uncomfortable. They find themselves thinking something like: 'If the mind actually does work like that, it seems like we could never truly be morally responsible for anything we did. After all, we would never be free to choose any behavior other than the one we actually performed. Our behaviors would just follow inevitably from certain facts about the configuration of the states and processes within us.' Many philosophers think that this sort of discomfort is fundamentally confused or wrongheaded. They think that the confusion here can be cleared up just by saying something like: 'Wait! It doesn't make any sense to say that the interaction of these states and processes is preventing you from controlling your own life. The thing you are forgetting is that the interaction of these states and processes – this whole complex system described by cognitive science – is simply you. So when you learn that these states and processes control your behavior, all you are learning is that you are controlling your behavior. There is no reason at all to see these discoveries as a threat to your freedom or responsibility.'2 Philosophers may regard this argument as a powerful one, perhaps even irrefutable.. (shrink)
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 (...) a way that ascriptions of other states are not. (shrink)
Claims about people's intuitions have long played an important role in philosophical debates. The new field of experimental philosophy seeks to subject such claims to rigorous tests using the traditional methods of cognitive science – systematic experimentation and statistical analysis. Work in experimental philosophy thus far has investigated people's intuitions in philosophy of language, philosophy of mind, epistemology, and ethics. Although it is now generally agreed that experimental philosophers have made surprising discoveries about people's intuitions in each of these areas, (...) considerable disagreement remains about the philosophical significance of the key findings. Some have argued that work in experimental philosophy should be assessed by asking whether it can contribute to the kind of inquiry that is normally pursued within analytic philosophy, while others suggest that work in experimental philosophy is best understood as a contribution to a more traditional sort of philosophical inquiry that long predates the birth of analytic philosophy. (shrink)
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 (...) relevant competencies are entirely non-moral but that some additional factor (conversational pragmatics, performance error, etc.) then interferes and allows people’s moral judgments to affect their intuitions. Another approach would be to say that moral considerations truly do figure in workings of the competencies themselves. It is argued that the data available now favor the second of these approaches over the first. (shrink)
Recent developments in cosmology indicate that every history having a non-zero probability is realized in infinitely many distinct regions of spacetime. Thus, it appears that the universe contains infinitely many civilizations exactly like our own, as well as infinitely many civilizations that differ from our own in any way permitted by physical laws. We explore the implications of this conclusion for ethical theory and for the doomsday argument. In the infinite universe, we find that the doomsday argument applies only to (...) effects which change the average lifetime of all civilizations, and not those which affect our civilization alone. (shrink)
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) (...) and learned associations (Greenwald & Banaji, 1995). (shrink)
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 (...) participants said that (a) our universe is indeterministic and (b) moral responsibility is not compatible with determinism. (shrink)
It is widely believed that the primary function of folk psychology lies in the prediction, explanation and control of behavior. A question arises, however, as to whether folk psychology has also been shaped in fundamental ways by the various other roles it plays in people’s lives. Here I approach that question by considering one particular aspect of folk psychology – the distinction between intentional and unintentional behaviors. The aim is to determine whether this distinction is best understood as a tool (...) used in prediction, explanation and control or whether it has been shaped in fundamental ways by some other aspect of its use. (shrink)
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. (...) Many of the philosophers working on moral responsibility today would disagree with some of the substantive conclusions Strawson reached in that early essay, but almost all have been influenced to some degree by his methodological proposals. Thus, almost all participants in the contemporary debate about moral responsibility make some appeal to the ordinary practice of moral responsibility judgment. Each side tries to devise cases in which the other side’s theory yields a conclusion that diverges from people’s ordinary judgments, and to the extent that a given theory actually is shown to conflict with ordinary judgments, it is widely supposed that we have strong reason to reject the theory itself. It seems to us that this philosophical effort to understand the ordinary practice of moral responsibility judgment has in some ways been a great success and in other ways a dismal failure. We have been extremely impressed with the ingenuity philosophers have shown in constructing counterexamples to each other’s theories, and we think that a number of participants in the debate have been successful in coming up with cases in which their opponents’ theories yield conclusions that conflict with ordinary judgments. But we have been less impressed with attempts to actually develop theories that accord.. (shrink)
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 (...) judgment. It appears that the relationship can sometimes go in the opposite direction. That is, it appears that our moral judgments can sometimes impact our causal judgments. (Hence, we might first determine that a behavior is morally wrong and then, on that basis, arrive at the conclusion that it was the cause of various outcomes.). (shrink)
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 (...) will as compatible with determinism? Fourth, how do people determine whether an entity is conscious? (shrink)
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.
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 (...) that the present finding favors the view that moral appraisal plays a pervasive role in shaping diverse cognitive representations across multiple domains. (shrink)
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.
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 (...) to adopt different views depending on the degree to which they consider radically different perspectives on moral questions. (shrink)
Four experiments examined people’s folk-psychological concept of intentional action. The chief question was whether or not _evaluative _considerations — considerations of good and bad, right and wrong, praise and blame — played any role in that concept. The results indicated that the moral qualities of a behavior strongly influence people’s judgements as to whether or not that behavior should be considered ‘intentional.’ After eliminating a number of alternative explanations, the author concludes that this effect is best explained by the hypothesis (...) that evaluative considerations do play some role in people’s concept of intentional action.<b> </b>. (shrink)
There has been a long-standing dispute in the philosophical literature about the conditions under which a behavior counts as 'intentional.' Much of the debate turns on questions about the use of certain words and phrases in ordinary language. The present paper investigates these questions empirically, using experimental techniques to investigate people's use of the relevant words and phrases. g.
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 (...) these concepts to be understood? One obvious hypothesis would be that they are best understood as being more or less like the concept of belief. Maybe these concepts, too, pick out a particular mental state and thereby enable people to predict, explain and understand others’ behavior. We will argue that this hypothesis is mistaken. Instead, we suggest that the different concepts people use to understand the mind are fundamentally different from each other. Some of these concepts do indeed serve simply to pick out a particular mental state, but others allow a role for evaluative judgments. So, for example, our claim will be that when people are wondering whether a given agent is truly ‘happy’ or ‘in love,’ they are not merely trying to figure out whether this agent has a particular sort of mental state. They are also concerned in a central way with evaluating the agent herself. In short, our aim is to point to a striking sort of difference between the different concepts that people use to pick out psychological attitudes. We will be.. (shrink)
Consider the following explanation: (1) George took his umbrella because it was just about to rain. This is an explanation of a quite distinctive sort. It is profoundly different from the sort of explanation we might use to explain, say, the movements of a bouncing ball or the gradual rise of the tide on a beach. Unlike these other types of explanations, it explains an agent’s behavior by describing the agent’s own _reasons_ for performing that behavior. Explanations that work in (...) this way have a number of distinctive and important properties, and we will refer to them here as _reason explanations_. Looking at the use of reason explanations with a philosophical eye, one is apt to experience a certain puzzlement. One wants to know precisely what makes a given reason explanation true or false. So, for example, the explanation given above seems to be saying that George’s reason for taking his umbrella was that it was just about to rain. But what exactly makes it the case that this is George’s reason? Does he have to actually be. (shrink)
When perceiving, explaining, or criticizing human behavior, people distinguish between intentional and unintentional actions. To do so, they rely on a shared folk concept of intentionality. In contrast to past speculative models, this article provides an empirically-based model of this concept. Study 1 demonstrates that people agree substantially in their judgments of intentionality, suggesting a shared underlying concept. Study 2 reveals that when asked to directly define the term intentional, people mention four components of intentionality: desire, belief, intention, and awareness. (...) Study 3 confirms the importance of a fifth component, namely, skill. In light of these findings, the authors propose a model of the folk concept of intentionality and provide a further test in Study 4. The discussion compares the proposed model to past ones and examines its implications for social perception, attribution, and cognitive development. (shrink)
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 (...) of years ago (Reeder & Spores, 1983). All subjects were given a vignette about a man who goes with his date to a pizza parlor and happens to come across a box that has been designated for charitable donations. In one condition, the man’s date then requests that he make a donation; in the other, she requests that he steal the money that is already in the box. In both conditions, the man chooses to comply with this request. The key question is how subjects will use his behavior to make inferences about whether he is a morally good or morally bad person. The results revealed a marked difference between conditions. When the man donated to charity, subjects were generally disinclined to conclude that he must have been a morally good person. It is as though they were thinking: ‘He didn’t just do this out of the goodness of his heart. (shrink)
The concept of acting intentionally is an important nexus where ‘theory of mind’ and moral judgment meet. Preschool children’s judgments of intentional action show a valence-driven asymmetry. Children say that a foreseen but disavowed side-effect is brought about 'on purpose' when the side-effect itself is morally bad but not when it is morally good. This is the first demonstration in preschoolers that moral judgment influences judgments of ‘on-purpose’ (as opposed to purpose influencing moral judgment). Judgments of intentional action are usually (...) assumed to be purely factual. That these judgments are sometimes partly normative — even in preschoolers — challenges current understanding. Young children’s judgments regarding foreseen side-effects depend upon whether the children process the idea that the character does not care about the side-effect. As soon as preschoolers effectively process the ‘theory of mind’ concept, NOT CARE THAT P, children show the side-effect effect.idea.. (shrink)
The psychological study of ethical reasoning tends to concentrate on a few specific issues, with the bulk of the research going to the study of people's attitudes toward moral rules or the welfare of others. But people's ethical reasoning is also shaped by a wide range of other concerns. Here I focus on the importance that people attach to the ideal of being yourself. It is shown that certain experimental results - results that seemed anomalous and inexplicable to researchers who (...) focused on moral rules and concern for the welfare of others - can be explained quite elegantly as the product of people's attachment to the ideal of 'being yourself'. The success of this explanation then points to the need for a more general inquiry into the role that the ideal of 'being yourself ' plays in people's ethical reasoning. (shrink)
Recent studies point to a surprising divergence between people's use of the concept of _intention_ and their use of the concept of _acting intentionally_. It seems that people's application of the concept of intention is determined by their beliefs about the agent's psychological states whereas their use of the concept of acting intentionally is determined at least in part by their beliefs about the moral status of the behavior itself (i.e., by their beliefs about whether the behavior is morally good (...) or morally bad). These findings raise a number of difficult questions about the relationship between the concept of intention and the concept of acting intentionally. The present paper addresses those questions using a variety of different methods, including conceptual analysis, psychological experimentation, and an examination of people's use of certain expressions in other languages. (shrink)
Experimental philosophy is a comparatively new field of research, and it is only natural that many of the key methodological questions have not even been asked, much less answered. In responding to the comments of our critics, we therefore find ourselves brushing up against difficult questions about the aims and techniques of our whole enterprise. We will do our best to address these issues here, but the field is progressing at a rapid clip, and we suspect that it will be (...) possible to provide more adequate answers a few years down the line. (shrink)
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 (...) which we would not say that he or she ‘values’ this object. Thus, consider the typical heroin addict. It would sound wrong to say of such a person. (shrink)
Since the earliest days of analytic philosophy, it has been a common practice to appeal to intuitions about particular cases. Typically, the philosopher presents a hypothetical situation and then makes a claim of the form: ‘In this case, we would surely say....’ This claim about people’s intuitions then forms a part of an argument for some more general theory about the nature of our concepts or our use of language. One puzzling aspect of this practice is that it so rarely (...) makes use of standard empirical methods. Although philosophers quite frequently make claims about ‘what people would ordinarily say,’ they rarely back up those claims by actually asking people and looking for patterns in their responses. In recent years, however, a number of philosophers have tried to put claims about intuitions to the test, using experimental methods to figure out what people really think about particular hypothetical cases. At times, the results have been extremely surprising. Here I discuss applications of this new methodology to three areas of philosophy — the philosophy of language, the theory of action, and the free will debate. (shrink)
Kauppinen argues that experimental philosophy cannot help us to address questions about the semantics of our concepts and that it therefore has little to contribute to the discipline of philosophy. This argument raises fascinating questions in the philosophy of language, but it is simply a red herring in the present context. Most researchers in experimental philosophy were not trying to resolve semantic questions in the first place. Their aim was rather to address a more traditional sort of question, the sort (...) of question that was regarded as absolutely central in the period before the rise of analytic philosophy. (shrink)
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 (...) feed into the process by which people determine whether or not a behavior was performed intentionally. Of course, this sort of question had already been pursued in countless philosophy papers, but Malle wanted to use a different approach. He wanted to study the problem experimentally. We ran a number of experiments together and then co-authored a paper, which was published in a social psychology journal. Yet although I found this type of research interesting and engaging, my real passion lay elsewhere. I was obsessively reading Nietzsche, along with some heavy doses of Kierkegaard, Hume, Marx, Wittgenstein and Aristotle. What I really wanted to do was to continue working on the very same sorts of questions I saw addressed in these thinkers. (shrink)
Contemporary moral psychology has been dominated by two broad traditions, one usually associated with Aristotle, the other with Kant. The broadly Aristotelian approach emphasizes the role of childhood upbringing in the development of good moral character, and the role of such character in ethical behavior. The broadly Kantian approach emphasizes the role of freely chosen conscious moral principles in ethical behavior. We review a growing body of experimental evidence that suggests that both of these approaches are predicated on an implausible (...) view of human psychology. This evidence suggests that both childhood upbringing and conscious moral principles have extraordinarily little impact on people's moral behavior. This paper argues that moral psychology needs to take seriously a third approach, derived from Nietzsche. This approach emphasizes the role of heritable psychological and physiological traits in explaining behavior. In particular, it claims that differences in the degree to which different individuals behave morally can often be traced back to heritable differences between those individuals. We show that this third approach enjoys considerable empirical support - indeed that it is far better supported by the empirical data than are either the Aristotelian or Kantian traditions in moral psychology. (shrink)
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 (...) to show that people’s moral judgments can actually impact their representations of the action tree itself. (shrink)
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.