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.
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)
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)
Existing research suggests that people's judgments of actual causation can be influenced by the degree to which they regard certain events as normal. We develop an explanation for this phenomenon that draws on standard tools from the literature on graphical causal models and, in particular, on the idea of probabilistic sampling. Using these tools, we propose a new measure of actual causal strength. This measure accurately captures three effects of normality on causal judgment that have been observed in existing studies. (...) More importantly, the measure predicts a new effect ("abnormal deflation"). Two studies show that people's judgments do, in fact, show this new effect. Taken together, the patterns of people's causal judgments thereby provide support for the proposed explanation. (shrink)
A long tradition of psychological research has explored the distinction between characteristics that are part of the self and those that lie outside of it. Recently, a surge of research has begun examining a further distinction. Even among characteristics that are internal to the self, people pick out a subset as belonging to the true self. These factors are judged as making people who they really are, deep down. In this paper, we introduce the concept of the true self and (...) identify features that distinguish people’s understanding of the true self from their understanding of the self more generally. In particular, we consider recent findings that the true self is perceived as positive and moral, and that this tendency is actor-observer invariant and cross-culturally stable. We then explore possible explanations for these findings and discuss their implications for a variety of issues in psychology. (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)
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)
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)
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)
Four studies explored people's judgments about whether particular types of behavior are compatible with determinism. Participants read a passage describing a deterministic universe, in which everything that happens is fully caused by whatever happened before it. They then assessed the degree to which different behaviors were possible in such a universe. Other participants evaluated the extent to which each of these behaviors had various features. We assessed the extent to which these features predicted judgments about whether the behaviors were possible (...) in a deterministic universe. Experiments 1 and 2 found that people's judgments about whether a behavior was compatible with determinism were not predicted by their judgments about whether that behavior relies on physical processes in the brain and body, is uniquely human, is unpredictable, or involves reasoning. Experiment 3, however, found that a distinction between what we call “active” and “passive” behaviors can explain people's judgments. Experiment 4 extended these findings, showing that we can measure this distinction in several ways and that it is robustly predicted by two different cues. Taken together, these results suggest that people carve up mentally guided behavior into two distinct types—understanding one type to be compatible with determinism, but another type to be fundamentally incompatible with determinism. (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)
Recent scientific research has settled on a purely descriptive definition of happiness that is focused solely on agents’ psychological states (high positive affect, low negative affect, high life satisfaction). In contrast to this understanding, recent research has suggested that the ordinary concept of happiness is also sensitive to the moral value of agents’ lives. Five studies systematically investigate and explain the impact of morality on ordinary assessments of happiness. Study 1 demonstrates that moral judgments influence assessments of happiness not only (...) for untrained participants, but also for academic researchers and even in those who study happiness specifically. Studies 2 and 3 then respectively ask whether this effect may be explained by general motivational biases or beliefs in a just world. In both cases, we find evidence against these explanations. Study 4 shows that the impact of moral judgments cannot be explained by changes in the perception of descriptive psychological states. Finally, Study 5 compares the impact of moral and non-moral value, and provides evidence that unlike non-moral value, moral value is part of the criteria that govern the ordinary concept of happiness. Taken together, these studies provide a specific explanation of how and why the ordinary concept of happiness deviates from the definition used by researchers studying happiness. (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)
People’s beliefs about normality play an important role in many aspects of cognition and life (e.g., causal cognition, linguistic semantics, cooperative behavior). But how do people determine what sorts of things are normal in the first place? Past research has studied both people’s representations of statistical norms (e.g., the average) and their representations of prescriptive norms (e.g., the ideal). Four studies suggest that people’s notion of normality incorporates both of these types of norms. In particular, people’s representations of what is (...) normal were found to be influenced both by what they believed to be descriptively average and by what they believed to be prescriptively ideal. This is shown across three domains: people’s use of the word ‘‘normal” (Study 1), their use of gradable adjectives (Study 2), and their judgments of concept prototypicality (Study 3). A final study investigated the learning of normality for a novel category, showing that people actively combine statistical and prescriptive information they have learned into an undifferentiated notion of what is normal (Study 4). Taken together, these findings may help to explain how moral norms impact the acquisition of normality and, conversely, how normality impacts the acquisition of moral norms. (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.
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)
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)
The concept of innateness appears in systematic research within cognitive science, but it also appears in less systematic modes of thought that long predate the scientific study of the mind. The present studies therefore explore the relationship between the properly scientific uses of this concept and its role in ordinary folk understanding. Studies 1-4 examined the judgments of people with no specific training in cognitive science. Results showed (a) that judgments about whether a trait was innate were not affected by (...) whether or not the trait was learned, but (b) such judgments were impacted by moral considerations. Study 5 looked at the judgments of both non-scientists and scientists, in conditions that encouraged either thinking about individual cases or thinking about certain general principles. In the case-based condition, both non-scientists and scientists showed an impact of moral considerations but little impact of learning. In the principled condition, both non-scientists and scientists showed an impact of learning but little impact of moral considerations. These results suggest that both non-scientists and scientists are drawn to a conception of innateness that differs from the one at work in contemporary scientific research but that they are also both capable of 'filtering out' their initial intuitions and using a more scientific approach. (shrink)
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)
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)
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.
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)
When speakers utter conflicting moral sentences, it seems clear that they disagree. It has often been suggested that the fact that the speakers disagree gives us evidence for a claim about the semantics of the sentences they are uttering. Specifically, it has been suggested that the existence of the disagreement gives us reason to infer that there must be an incompatibility between the contents of these sentences. This inference then plays a key role in a now-standard argument against certain theories (...) in moral semantics. In this paper, we introduce new evidence that bears on this debate. We show that there are moral conflict cases in which people are inclined to say both that the two speakers disagree and that it is not the case at least one of them must be saying something incorrect. We then explore how we might understand such disagreements. As a proof of concept, we sketch an account of the concept of disagreement and an independently motivated theory of moral semantics which, together, explain the possibility of such cases. (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)
A series of recent studies have explored the impact of people’s judgments regarding physical law, morality, and probability. Surprisingly, such studies indicate that these three apparently unrelated types of judgments often have precisely the same impact. We argue that these findings provide evidence for a more general hypothesis about the kind of cognition people use to think about possibilities. Specifically, we suggest that this aspect of people’s cognition is best understood using an idea developed within work in the formal semantics (...) tradition, namely the notion of modality. On the view we propose, people may have separate representations for physical, moral and probabilistic considerations, but they also integrate these various considerations into a unified representation of modality. (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)
A growing body of research has examined how people judge the persistence of identity over time—that is, how they decide that a particular individual is the same entity from one time to the next. While a great deal of progress has been made in understanding the types of features that people typically consider when making such judgments, to date, existing work has not explored how these judgments may be shaped by normative considerations. The present studies demonstrate that normative beliefs do (...) appear to play an important role in people's beliefs about persistence. Specifically, people are more likely to judge that the identity of a given entity remains the same when its features improve than when its features deteriorate. Study 1 provides a basic demonstration of this effect. Study 2 shows that this effect is moderated by individual differences in normative beliefs. Study 3 examines the underlying mechanism, which is the belief that, in general, various entities are essentially good. Study 4 directly manipulates beliefs about essence to show that the positivity bias regarding essences is causally responsible for the effect. (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.
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)
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 (...) have two different criteria for category membership. The results show that when an object possesses the appropriate concrete features, but does not fulfill the appropriate abstract value, it is judged to be a category member in one sense but not in another. Finally, Experiment 5 uses the theory developed here to construct artificial dual character concepts and examines whether participants react to these artificial concepts in the same way as naturally occurring dual character concepts. The present studies serve to define the nature of dual character concepts and distinguish them from other types of concepts (e.g., natural kind concepts), which share some, but not all of the properties of dual character concepts. More broadly, these phenomena suggest a normative dimension in everyday conceptual representation. (shrink)
Past research has identified a number of asymmetries based on moral judgments. Beliefs about what a person values, whether a person is happy, whether a person has shown weakness of will, and 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 self” explain these observed (...) asymmetries based on moral judgment. Using the identical materials from previous studies in this area, a series of five experiments indicate that people show a general tendency to conclude that deep inside every individual there is a “true self” calling him or her to behave in ways that are morally virtuous. In turn, this belief causes people to hold different intuitions about what the agent values, whether the agent is happy, whether he or she has shown weakness of will, and whether he or she deserves praise or blame. These results not only help to answer important questions about how people attribute various mental states to others; they also contribute to important theoretical debates regarding how moral values may shape our beliefs about phenomena that, on the surface, appear to be decidedly non-moral in nature. (shrink)
Past work has demonstrated that people’s moral judgments can influence their judgments in a number of domains that might seem to involve straightforward matters of fact, including judgments about freedom, causation, the doing/allowing distinction, and intentional action. The present studies explore whether the effect of morality in these four domains can be explained by changes in the relevance of alternative possibilities. More precisely, we propose that moral judgment influences the degree to which people regard certain alternative possibilities as relevant, which (...) in turn impacts intuitions about freedom, causation, doing/allowing, and intentional action. Employing the stimuli used in previous research, Studies 1a, 2a, 3a, and 4a show that the relevance of alternatives is influenced by moral judgments and mediates the impact of morality on non-moral judgments. Studies 1b, 2b, 3b, and 4b then provide direct empirical evidence for the link between the relevance of alternatives and judgments in these four domains by manipulating (rather than measuring) the relevance of alternative possibilities. Lastly, Study 5 demonstrates that the critical mechanism is not whether alternative possibilities are considered, but whether they are regarded as relevant. These studies support a unified framework for understanding the impact of morality across these very different kinds of judgments. (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)
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)
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 (...) elicited in so-called eavesdropping and retraction cases to support this empirical thesis. But opposing theorists have denied the judgments, and at present there is no consensus in the literature about how the speaker judgments in fact pattern. Consequently there is little agreement on what exactly a semantics and pragmatics for epistemic modals should predict about the pattern of judgments in these cases. Further theorizing requires greater clarity on the data to be explained. To clarify the data, we subjected eavesdropping and retraction cases to experimental evaluation. Our data provide evidence against the claim that competent speakers tend to judge a present-tense bare epistemic possibility claim true only if the prejacent is compatible with their information. Theories designed to predict this result are accordingly undermined. (shrink)
Generic statements express generalizations about categories. Current theories suggest that people should be especially inclined to accept generics that involve threatening information. However, previous tests of this claim have focused on generics about non-human categories, which raises the question of whether this effect applies as readily to human categories. In Experiment 1, adults were more likely to accept generics involving a threatening property for artifacts, but this negativity bias did not also apply to human categories. Experiment 2 examined an alternative (...) hypothesis for this result, and Experiments 3 and 4 served as conceptual replications of the first experiment. Experiment 5 found that even preschoolers apply generics differently for humans and artifacts. Finally, Experiment 6 showed that these effects reflect differences between human and non-human categories more generally, as adults showed a negativity bias for categories of non-human animals, but not for categories of humans. These findings suggest the presence of important, early-emerging domain differences in people's judgments about generics. (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)
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..
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)
A long series of studies in social psychology have shown that the explanations people give for their own behaviors are fundamentally different from the explanations they give for the behaviors of others. Still, a great deal of uncertainty remains about precisely what sorts of differences one finds here. We offer a new approach to addressing the problem. Specifically, we distinguish between two levels of representation ─ the level of linguistic structure (which consists of the actual series of words used in (...) the explanation) and the level of conceptual structure (which consists of the concepts these words are used to express). We then formulate and test hypotheses both about self-other differences in conceptual structure and about self-other differences in the mapping from conceptual structure to linguistic structure. (shrink)
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 (...) the title 'Strawsonian Variations.']. (shrink)
The philosophical study of mind in the twentieth century was dominated by a research program that used a priori methods to address foundational questions. Since that time, however, the philosophical study of mind has undergone a dramatic shift. To provide a more accurate picture of contemporary philosophical work, I compared a sample of highly cited philosophy papers from the past five years with a sample of highly cited philosophy papers from the twentieth century. In the twentieth century sample, the majority (...) of papers used purely a priori methods, while only a minority cited results from empirical studies. In the sample from the past five years, the methodology is radically different. The majority of papers cite results from empirical studies, a sizable proportion report original experimental results, and only a small minority are purely a priori. Overall, the results of the review suggest that the philosophical study of mind has become considerably more integrated into the broader interdisciplinary field of cognitive science. (shrink)
We present experimental evidence that people's modes of social interaction influence their construal of truth. Participants who engaged in cooperative interactions were less inclined to agree that there was an objective truth about that topic than were those who engaged in a competitive interaction. Follow-up experiments ruled out alternative explanations and indicated that the changes in objectivity are explained by argumentative mindsets: When people are in cooperative arguments, they see the truth as more subjective. These findings can help inform research (...) on moral objectivism and, more broadly, on the distinctive cognitive consequences of different types of social interaction. (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)
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.
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)