Action, Attitude, and the Knobe Effect: Another Asymmetry

Review of Philosophy and Psychology 3 (2):171-185 (2012)
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Abstract

A majority of people regard the harmful side-effects of an agent’s behavior as much more intentional than an agent’s helpful side-effects. In this paper, I present evidence for a related asymmetry. When a side- effect action is an instance of harming, folk ascriptions are significantly impacted by the relative badness of either an agent’s main goal or her side- effect action, but not her attitude. Yet when a side- effect action is an instance of helping, folk ascriptions are sensitive to an agent’s expressed attitude, but not to the relative goodness of her main goal or side- effect. It seems that the connection between harmful side-effects and intentionality is, for many, uniquely impervious to the expressed attitude of the agent in question

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