The everyday capacity to understand the mind, or 'mindreading', plays an enormous role in our ordinary lives. Shaun Nichols and Stephen Stich provide a detailed and integrated account of the intricate web of mental components underlying this fascinating and multifarious skill. The imagination, they argue, is essential to understanding others, and there are special cognitive mechanisms for understanding oneself. The account that emerges has broad implications for longstanding philosophical debates over the status of folk psychology. Mindreading is another trailblazing volume (...) in the prestigious interdisciplinary Oxford Cognitive Science series. (shrink)
Sentimental Rules is an ambitious and highly interdisciplinary work, which proposes and defends a new theory about the nature and evolution of moral judgment. In it, philosopher Shaun Nichols develops the theory that emotions play a critical role in both the psychological and the cultural underpinnings of basic moral judgment. Nichols argues that our norms prohibiting the harming of others are fundamentally associated with our emotional responses to those harms, and that such 'sentimental rules' enjoy an advantage in cultural evolution, (...) which partly explains the success of certain moral norms. This has sweeping and exciting implications for philosophical ethics. Nichols builds on an explosion of recent intriguing experimental work in psychology on our capacity for moral judgment and shows how this empirical work has broad import for enduring philosophical problems. The result is an account that illuminates fundamental questions about the character of moral emotions and the role of sentiment and reason in how we make our moral judgments. This work should appeal widely across philosophy and the other disciplines that comprise cognitive science. (shrink)
In this paper we propose to argue for two claims. The first is that a sizeable group of epistemological projects – a group which includes much of what has been done in epistemology in the analytic tradition – would be seriously undermined if one or more of a cluster of empirical hypotheses about epistemic intuitions turns out to be true. The basis for this claim will be set out in Section 2. The second claim is that, while the jury is (...) still out, there is now a substantial body of evidence suggesting that some of those empirical hypotheses are true. Much of this evidence derives from an ongoing series of experimental studies of epistemic intuitions that we have been conducting. A preliminary report on these studies will be presented in Section 3. In light of these studies, we think it is incumbent on those who pursue the epistemological projects in question to either explain why the truth of the hypotheses does not undermine their projects, or to say why, in light of the evidence we will present, they nonetheless assume that the hypotheses are false. In Section 4, which is devoted to Objections and Replies, we’ll consider some of the ways in which defenders of the projects we are criticizing might reply to our challenge. Our goal, in all of this, is not to offer a conclusive argument demonstrating that the epistemological projects we will be criticizing are untenable. Rather, our aim is to shift the burden of argument. (shrink)
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.
Theories of reference have been central to analytic philosophy, and two views, the descriptivist view of reference and the causal-historical view of reference, have dominated the field. In this research tradition, theories of reference are assessed by consulting one’s intuitions about the reference of terms in hypothetical situations. However, recent work in cultural psychology (e.g., Nisbett et al. 2001) has shown systematic cognitive differences between East Asians and Westerners, and some work indicates that this extends to intuitions about philosophical cases (...) (Weinberg et al. 2001). In light of these findings on cultural differences, two experiments were conducted which explored intuitions about reference in Westerners and East Asians. Both experiments indicate that, for certain central cases, Westerners are more likely than East Asians to report intuitions that are consistent with the causal-historical view. These results constitute prima facie evidence that semantic intuitions vary from culture to culture, and the paper argues that this fact raises questions about the nature of the philosophical enterprise of developing a theory of reference. (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)
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 common in various quarters of philosophy to derive philosophically significant conclusions from theories of reference. In this paper, we argue that philosophers should give up on such 'arguments from reference.' Intuitions play a central role in establishing theories of reference, and recent cross-cultural work suggests that intuitions about reference vary across cultures and between individuals within a culture (Machery et al. 2004). We argue that accommodating this variation within a theory of reference undermines arguments from reference.
Memory of past episodes provides a sense of personal identity — the sense that I am the same person as someone in the past. We present a neurological case study of a patient who has accurate memories of scenes from his past, but for whom the memories lack the sense of mineness. On the basis of this case study, we propose that the sense of identity derives from two components, one delivering the content of the memory and the other generating (...) the sense of mineness. We argue that this new model of the sense of identity has implications for debates about quasi-memory. In addition, articulating the components of the sense of identity promises to bear on the extent to which this sense of identity provides evidence of personal identity. (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..
The idea that incompatibilism is intuitive is one of the key motivators for incompatibilism. Not surprisingly, then philosophers who defend incompatibilism often claim that incompatibilism is the natural, commonsense view about free will and moral responsibility (e.g., Pereboom 2001, Kane Journal of Philosophy 96:217–240 1999, Strawson 1986). And a number of recent studies find that people give apparently incompatibilist responses in vignette studies. When participants are presented with a description of a causal deterministic universe, they tend to deny that people (...) are morally responsible in that universe. Although this suggests that people are intuitive incompatibilists, Eddy Nahmias and Dylan Murray, in a recent series of important papers, have developed an important challenge to this interpretation. They argue that people confuse determinism with bypassing, the idea that one’s mental states lack causal efficacy. Murray and Nahmias present new experiments that seem to confirm the bypassing hypothesis. In this paper, we use structural equation modeling to re-examine the issue. We find support instead for an incompatibilist explanation of the bypassing results, i.e., incompatibilist judgments seem to cause bypassing judgments. We hypothesize that this phenomenon occurs because people think of decisions as essentially indeterministic; thus, when confronted with a description of determinism they tend to think that decisions do not even occur. We provide evidence for this in three subsequent studies which show that many participants deny that people make decisions in a deterministic universe; by contrast, most participants tend to allow that people add numbers in a deterministic universe. Together, these studies suggest that bypassing results don’t reflect a confusion, but rather the depth of the incompatibilist intuition. (shrink)
Many philosophers maintain that causation is to be explicated in terms of a kind of dependence between cause and effect. These “dependence” theories are opposed by “production” accounts which hold that there is some more fundamental causal “oomph”. A wide range of experimental research on everyday causal judgments seems to indicate that ordinary people operate primarily with a dependence-based notion of causation. For example, people tend to say that absences and double preventers are causes. We argue that the impression that (...) commonsense causal discourse is largely dependence-based is the result of focusing on a very narrow class of causal verbs. Almost all of the vignette-based experimental work on causal judgment has been prosecuted using the word “cause”. But much ordinary causal discourse involves special causal verbs, such as “burn” and “crack”. We find that these verbs display a quite different pattern from the verb “cause”. For instance, for absences and double preventers (Studies 1-3), we find that while people are inclined to say that X caused Y to burn, turn, crack or start, they are less inclined to think that X burned, turned, cracked or started Y. In Study 4, we find that for chains involving a distal and proximal event, people are inclined to say that the distal event is not a special cause of the outcome, though it is a “cause” of the outcome. Together, we find a surprising double dissociation between “cause” and a stock of special causal verbs. We conclude by suggesting that much commonsense causal judgment, which heavily trades in special causal verbs, might be better captured by production-based accounts of causation. (shrink)
Recent work by Joshua Knobe indicates that people’s intuition about whether an action was intentional depends on whether the outcome is good or bad. This paper argues that part of the explanation for this effect is that there are stable individual differences in how ‘intentional’ is interpreted. That is, in Knobe’s cases, different people interpret the term in different ways. This interpretive diversity of ‘intentional’ opens up a new avenue to help explain Knobe’s results. Furthermore, the paper argues that the (...) use of intuitions in philosophy is complicated by fact that there are robust individual differences in intuitions about matters of philosophical concern. (shrink)
For the last 25 years discussions and debates about commonsense psychology (or “folk psychology,” as it is often called) have been center stage in the philosophy of mind. There have been heated disagreements both about what folk psychology is and about how it is related to the scientific understanding of the mind/brain that is emerging in psychology and the neurosciences. In this chapter we will begin by explaining why folk psychology plays such an important role in the philosophy of mind. (...) Doing that will require a quick look at a bit of the history of philosophical discussions about the mind. We’ll then turn our attention to the lively contemporary discussions aimed at clarifying the philosophical role that folk psychology is expected to play and at using findings in the cognitive sciences to get a clearer understanding of the exact nature of folk psychology. (shrink)
Many philosophers have claimed that the folk endorse moral universalism. Some have taken the folk view to support moral universalism; others have taken the folk view to reflect a deep confusion. And while some empirical evidence supports the claim that the folk endorse moral universalism, this work has uncovered intra-domain differences in folk judgments of moral universalism. In light of all this, our question is: why do the folk endorse moral universalism? Our hypothesis is that folk judgments of moral universalism (...) are generated in part by a desire to punish. We present evidence supporting this across three studies. On the basis of this, we argue for a debunking explanation of folk judgments of moral universalism. Our results not only further our understanding of the psychological processes underpinning folk judgments of moral universalism. They also bear on philosophical discussions of folk meta-ethics. (shrink)
Thought experiments have played a central role in philosophical methodology, largely as a means of elucidating the nature of our concepts and the implications of our theories.1 Particular attention is given to widely shared “folk” intuitions – the basic untutored intuitions that the layperson has about philosophical questions.2 The folk intuition is meant to underlie our core metaphysical concepts, and philosophical analysis is meant to explicate or sometimes refine these naïve concepts. Consistency with the deliverances of folk intuitions is a (...) sign that the philosopher is making contact with his object of interest. In order to explore folk concepts, people are often asked to provide their intuitions about a state of affairs in some alternate universe or possible world, one that differs in particular, precise ways from the way things are in the actual world. Here we provide evidence that people’s intuitions about moral responsibility sometimes diverge across worlds even when the facts about these worlds are the same. Which world one considers actual affects at least some philosophical judgments, suggesting that it is not just possible worlds to which our intuitions are tied. We will present several possible explanations for the asymmetry we have identified, and we’ll consider some implications for philosophical intuition. (shrink)
Theories of reference have been central to analytic philosophy, and two views, the descriptivist view of reference and the causal-historical view of reference, have dominated the field. In this research tradition, theories of reference are assessed by consulting one's intuitions about the reference of terms in hypothetical situations. However, recent work in cultural psychology has shown systematic differences between East Asians and Westerners, and some work indicates that this extends to intuitions about philosophical cases. In light of these findings on (...) cultural differences, two experiments were conducted which explored intuitions about reference in Westerners and East Asians. Both experiments indicate that, for certain central cases, Westerners are more likely than East Asians to report intuitions that are consistent with the causal-historical view. These results constitute prima facie evidence that semantic intuitions vary from culture to culture, and that paper argues that this fact raises questions about the nature of the philosophical enterprise of developing a theory of reference. (shrink)
A central goal of contemporary cognitive science is the explanation of cognitive abilities or capacities. [Cummins 1983] During the last three decades a wide range of cognitive capacities have been subjected to careful empirical scrutiny. The adult's ability to produce and comprehend natural language sentences and the child's capacity to acquire a natural language were among the first to be explored. [Chomsky 1965, Fodor, Bever & Garrett 1974, Pinker 1989] There is also a rich literature on the ability to solve (...) mathematical problems [Greeno 1983], the ability to recognize objects visually [Rock 1983, Gregory 1970, Marr 1982], the ability to manipulate and predict the behavior of middle sized physical objects [McClosky 1983, Hayes 1985], and a host of others. (shrink)
Natural/social kind essentialism is the view that natural kind categories, both living and non-living natural kinds, as well as social kinds (e.g., race, gender), are essentialized. On this view, artifactual kinds are not essentialized. Our view—teleological essentialism—is that a broad range of categories are essentialized in terms of teleology, including artifacts. Utilizing the same kinds of experiments typically used to provide evidence of essentialist thinking—involving superficial change (study 1), transformation of insides (study 2) and inferences about offspring (study 3)—we find (...) support for the view that a broad range of categories—living natural kinds, non-living natural kinds and artifactual kinds—are essentialized in terms of teleology. Study 4 tests a unique prediction of teleological essentialism and also provides evidence that people make inferences about purposes which in turn guide categorization judgments. (shrink)
Throughout the 20th century, an enormous amount of intellectual fuel was spent debating the merits of a class of skeptical arguments which purport to show that knowledge of the external world is not possible. These arguments, whose origins can be traced back to Descartes, played an important role in the work of some of the leading philosophers of the 20th century, including Russell, Moore and Wittgenstein, and they continue to engage the interest of contemporary philosophers. (e.g., Cohen 1999, DeRose 1995, (...) Hill 1996, Klein 1981, Lewis 1996, McGinn 1993, Nozick 1981, Schiffer 1996, Unger 1975, Williams 1996) Typically, these arguments make use of one or more premises which the philosophers proposing them take to be intuitively obvious. Beyond an appeal to intuition, little or no defense is offered, and in many cases it is hard to see what else could be said in support of these premises. A number of authors have suggested that the intuitions undergirding these skeptical arguments are universal – shared by everyone (or almost everyone) who thinks reflectively about knowledge. In this paper we will offer some evidence indicating that they are far from universal. Rather, the evidence suggests that many of the intuitions epistemologists invoke vary with the cultural background, socioeconomic status and educational background of the person offering the intuition. And this, we will argue, is bad news for the skeptical arguments that rely on those intuitions. The evidence may also be bad news for skepticism itself – not because it shows that skepticism is false, but rather because, if we accept one prominent account of the link between epistemic intuitions and epistemic concepts, it indicates that skepticism may be much less interesting and much less worrisome than philosophers have taken it to be. (shrink)
Placeholder essentialism is the view that there is a causal essence that holds category members together, though we may not know what the essence is. Sometimes the placeholder can be filled in by scientific essences, such as when we acquire scientific knowledge that the atomic weight of gold is 79. We challenge the view that placeholders are elaborated by scientific essences. On our view, if placeholders are elaborated, they are elaborated Aristotelian essences, a telos. Utilizing the same kinds of experiments (...) used by traditional essentialists—involving superficial change (study 1), transformation of insides (study 2), acquired traits (study 3) and inferences about offspring (study 4)—we find support for the view that essences are elaborated by a telos. And we find evidence (study 5) that teleological essences may generate category judgments. (shrink)
Recent accounts of pretense have been underdescribed in a number of ways. In this paper, we present a much more explicit cognitive account of pretense. We begin by describing a number of real examples of pretense in children and adults. These examples bring out several features of pretense that any adequate theory of pretense must accommodate, and we use these features to develop our theory of pretense. On our theory, pretense representations are contained in a separate mental workspace, a Possible (...) World Box which is part of the basic architecture of the human mind. The representations in the Possible World Box can have the same content as beliefs. Indeed, we suggest that pretense representations are in the same representational ``code'' as beliefs and that the representations in the Possible World Box are processed by the same inference and UpDating mechanisms that operate over real beliefs. Our model also posits a Script Elaborator which is implicated in the embellishment that occurs in pretense. Finally, we claim that the behavior that is seen in pretend play is motivated not from a ``pretend desire'', but from a real desire to act in a way that ®ts the description being constructed in the Possible World Box. We maintain that this account can accommodate the central features of pretense exhibited in the examples of pretense, and we argue that the alternative accounts either can't accommodate or fail to address entirely some of the central features of pretense. q 2000 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved. (shrink)
This volume presents new essays on the propositional imagination by leading researchers. The propositional imagination---the mental capacity we exploit when we imagine that everyone is colour-blind or that Hamlet is a procrastinator---plays an essential role in philosophical theorizing, engaging with fiction, and indeed in everyday life. Yet only recently has there been a systematic attempt to give a cognitive account of the propositional imagination. These thirteen essays, specially written for the volume, capitalize on this recent work, extending the theoretical picture (...) of the imagination and exploring the philosophical implications of cognitive accounts of the imagination. The book also investigates broader philosophical issues surrounding the propositional imagination. The first section addresses the nature of the imagination, its role in emotion production, and its sophistication manifestation in childhood. The essays in the second section focus on the nature of pretence and how pretence is implicated in adult communication. The third section addresses the problem of 'imaginative resistance', the striking fact that when we encounter morally repugnant assertions in fiction, we seem to resist imagining them and accepting them as fictionally true. In the final section, contributors explore the relation between imagining, conceiving, and judgements of possibility and impossibility. The Architecture of the Imagination will be an essential resource for the growing number of philosophers and psychologists studying the nature of the imagination and on its role in philosophy, aesthetics, and everyday life. (shrink)
In this essay, two different forms of debunking arguments are distinguished. On the type of debunking argument that I will promote, one attempts to undercut the justificatory status of a belief by showing that the belief was formed by an epistemically defective psychological process. I argue that there is a promising application of such a process debunking argument in metaethics. In normative ethics, however, process debunking arguments face greater obstacles.
There is a large tradition of work in moral psychology that explores the capacity for moral judgment by focusing on the basic capacity to distinguish moral violations (e.g. hitting another person) from conventional violations (e.g. playing with your food). However, only recently have there been attempts to characterize the cognitive mechanisms underlying moral judgment (e.g. Cognition 57 (1995) 1; Ethics 103 (1993) 337). Recent evidence indicates that affect plays a crucial role in mediating the capacity to draw the moral/conventional distinction. (...) However, the prevailing account of the role of affect in moral judgment is problematic. This paper argues that the capacity to draw the moral/conventional distinction depends on both a body of information about which actions are prohibited (a Normative Theory) and an affective mechanism. This account leads to the prediction that other normative prohibitions that are connected to an affective mechanism might be treated as non-conventional. An experiment is presented that indicates that “disgust” violations (e.g. spitting at the table), are distinguished from conventional violations along the same dimensions as moral violations. (shrink)
Recent work shows an important asymmetry in lay intuitions about moral dilemmas. Most people think it is permissible to divert a train so that it will kill one innocent person instead of ﬁve, but most people think that it is not permissible to push a stranger in front of a train to save ﬁve innocents. We argue that recent emotion-based explanations of this asymmetry have neglected the contribution that rules make to reasoning about moral dilemmas. In two experiments, we ﬁnd (...) that participants show a parallel asymmetry about versions of the dilemmas that have minimized emotional force. In a third experiment, we ﬁnd that people distinguish between whether an action violates a moral rule and whether it is, all things considered, wrong. We propose that judgments of whether an action is wrong, all things considered, implicate a complex set of psychological processes, including representations of rules, emotional responses, and assessments of costs and beneﬁts. q 2005 Published by Elsevier B.V. (shrink)
According to agent-causal accounts of free will, agents have the capacity to cause actions, and for a given action, an agent could have done otherwise. This paper uses existing results and presents experimental evidence to argue that young children deploy a notion of agent-causation. If young children do have such a notion, however, it remains quite unclear how they acquire it. Several possible acquisition stories are canvassed, including the possibility that the notion of agent-causation develops from a prior notion of (...) obligation. Finally, the paper sets out how this work might illuminate the philosophical problem of free will. (shrink)
One promising way to investigate the genealogy of norms is by considering not the origin of norms, but rather, what makes certain norms more likely to prevail. Emotional responses, I maintain, constitute one important set of mechanisms that affects the cultural viability of norms. To corroborate this, I exploit historical evidence indicating that 16th century etiquette norms prohibiting disgusting actions were much more likely to survive than other 16th century etiquette norms. This case suggests more broadly that work on cultural (...) evolution should pay greater attention to the role of emotion systems in cultural transmission. (shrink)
Recent cognitive accounts of the imagination propose that imagining and believing are in the same “code”. According to the single code hypothesis, cognitive mechanisms that can take input from both imagining and from believing will process imagination-based inputs (“pretense representations”) and isomorphic beliefs in much the same way. In this paper, I argue that the single code hypothesis provides a unified and independently motivated explanation for a wide range of puzzles surrounding fiction.
This paper proposes the ‘AGENCY model’ of conscious state attribution, according to which an entity's displaying certain relatively simple features (e.g. eyes, distinctive motions, interactive behavior) automatically triggers a disposition to attribute conscious states to that entity. To test the model's predictions, participants completed a speeded object/attribution task, in which they responded positively or negatively to attributions of mental properties (including conscious and non-conscious states) to different sorts of entities (insects, plants, artifacts, etc.). As predicted, participants responded positively to conscious (...) state attributions only for those entities that typically display the simple features identified in the AGENCY model (eyes, distinctive motion, interaction) and took longer to deny conscious states to those entities. (shrink)
Over the last 20 years, a number of central figures in moral philosophy have defended some version of moral rationalism, the idea that morality is based on reason or rationality (e.g., Gewirth 1978, Darwall 1983, Nagel 1970, 1986, Korsgaard 1986, Singer 1995; Smith 1994, 1997). According to rationalism, morality is based on reason or rationality rather than the emotions or cultural idiosyncrasies, and this has seemed to many to be the best way of securing a kind of objectivism about moral (...) claims. Consider the following representative statements. (shrink)
Williams (1970) argues that our intuitions about personal identity vary depending on how a given thought experiment is framed. Some frames lead us to think that persistence of self requires persistence of one's psychological characteristics; other frames lead us to think that the self persists even after the loss of one's distinctive psychological characteristics. The current paper takes an empirical approach to these issues. We find that framing does affect whether or not people judge that persistence of psychological characteristics is (...) required for persistence of self. Open-ended, abstract questions about what is required for survival tend to elicit responses that appeal to the importance of psychological characteristics. This emphasis on psychological characteristics is largely preserved even when participants are exposed to a concrete case that yields conflicting intuitions over whether memory must be preserved in order for a person to persist. Insofar as our philosophical theory of personal identity should be based on our intuitions, the results provide some support for the view that psychological characteristics really are critical for persistence of self. (shrink)
Many philosophical problems are rooted in everyday thought, and experimental philosophy uses social scientific techniques to study the psychological underpinnings of such problems. In the case of free will, research suggests that people in a diverse range of cultures reject determinism, but people give conflicting responses on whether determinism would undermine moral responsibility. When presented with abstract questions, people tend to maintain that determinism would undermine responsibility, but when presented with concrete cases of wrongdoing, people tend to say that determinism (...) is consistent with moral responsibility. It remains unclear why people reject determinism and what drives people’s conflicted attitudes about responsibility. Experimental philosophy aims to address these issues and thereby illuminate the philosophical problem of free will. (shrink)
This paper develops an empirical argument that the rejection of moral objectivity leaves important features of moral judgment intact. In each of five reported experiments, a number of participants endorsed a nonobjectivist claim about a canonical moral violation. In four of these experiments, participants were also given a standard measure of moral judgment, the moral/conventional task. In all four studies, participants who respond as nonobjectivists about canonical moral violations still treat such violations in typical ways on the moral/conventional task. In (...) particular, participants who give moral nonobjectivist responses still draw a clear distinction between canonical moral and conventional violations. Thus there is some reason to think that many of the central characteristics of moral judgment are preserved in the absence of a commitment to moral objectivity. (shrink)
This paper relies on experimental methods to explore the psychological underpinnings of folk intuitions about free will and responsibility. In different conditions, people give conflicting responses about agency and responsibility. In some contexts, people treat agency as indeterminist; in other contexts, they treat agency as determinist. Furthermore, in some contexts people treat responsibility as incompatible with determinism, and in other contexts people treat responsibility as compatible with determinism. The paper considers possible accounts of the psychological mechanisms that underlie these conflicting (...) responses. (shrink)
We have recently presented evidence for cross-cultural variation in semantic intuitions and explored the implications of such variation for philosophical arguments that appeal to some theory of reference as a premise. Devitt (2011) and Ichikawa and colleagues (forthcoming) offer critical discussions of the experiment and the conclusions that can be drawn from it. In this response, we reiterate and clarify what we are really arguing for, and we show that most of Devitt’s and Ichikawa and colleagues’ criticisms fail to address (...) our concerns. (shrink)
Recent work in folk metaethics finds a correlation between perceived consensus about a moral claim and meta-ethical judgments about whether the claim is universally or only relatively true. We argue that consensus can provide evidence for meta-normative claims, such as whether a claim is universally true. We then report several experiments indicating that people use consensus to make inferences about whether a claim is universally true. This suggests that people's beliefs about relativism and universalism are partly guided by evidence-based reasoning. (...) In a final study, we show that the rejection of universalism does not generate a simple subjectivism but is associated with a more moderate relativism on which highly atypical positions are regarded as mistaken. (shrink)
One of the central debates in the philosophy of language is that between defenders of the causal-historical and descriptivist theories of reference. Most philosophers involved in the debate support one or the other of the theories. Building on recent experimental work in semantics, we argue that there is a sense in which both theories are correct. In particular, we defend the view that natural kind terms can sometimes take on a causal-historical reading and at other times take on a descriptivist (...) reading. The meaning will shift depending on the conversational setting. The theoretical view has roots in work by Kitcher. We present some original experiments that support the thesis. (shrink)
Incompatibilists often claim that we experience our agency as incompatible with determinism, while compatibilists challenge this claim. We report a series of experiments that focus on whether the experience of having an ability to do otherwise is taken to be at odds with determinism. We found that participants in our studies described their experience as incompatibilist whether the decision was (i) present-focused or retrospective, (ii) imagined or actual, (iii) morally salient or morally neutral. The only case in which participants did (...) not give incompatibilist judgments was when the question was explicitly about whether one’s ignorance of the future was compatible with determinism. This lends empirical support to claims made by incompatibilists about the experience of agency, while also showing that compatibilist accounts of ability are inadequate to the reported phenomenology. Our results also inform recent debates about the presuppositions of deliberation. (shrink)
Moral judgments, we expect, ought not to depend on luck. A person should be blamed only for actions and outcomes that were under the person’s control. Yet often, moral judgments appear to be influenced by luck. A father who leaves his child by the bath, after telling his child to stay put and believing that he will stay put, is judged to be morally blameworthy if the child drowns (an unlucky outcome), but not if his child stays put and doesn’t (...) drown. Previous theories of moral luck suggest that this asymmetry reflects primarily the influence of unlucky outcomes on moral judgments. In the current study, we use behavioral methods and fMRI to test an alternative: these moral judgments largely reflect participants’ judgments of the agent’s beliefs. In “moral luck” scenarios, the unlucky agent also holds a false belief. Here, we show that moral luck depends more on false beliefs than bad outcomes. We also show that participants with false beliefs are judged as having less justified beliefs and are therefore judged as more morally blameworthy. The current study lends support to a rationalist account of moral luck: moral luck asymmetries are driven not by outcome bias primarily, but by mental state assessments we endorse as morally relevant, i.e. whether agents are justified in thinking that they won’t cause harm. (shrink)
From the first time I encountered the problem of free will in college, it struck me that a clear-eyed view of free will and moral responsibility demanded some form of nihilism. Libertarianism seemed delusional, and compatibilism seemed in bad faith. Hence I threw my lot in with philosophers like Paul d’Holbach, Galen Strawson, and Derk Pereboom who conclude that no one is truly moral responsible. But after two decades of self- identifying as a nihilist, it occurred to me that I (...) had continued to treat my friends. (shrink)
Researchers working on children's moral understanding maintain that the child's capacity to distinguish morality from convention shows that children regard moral violations as objectively wrong. Education in the moral domain. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press). However, one traditional way to cast the issue of objectivism is to focus not on conventionality, but on whether moral properties depend on our responses, as with properties like icky and fun. This paper argues that the moral/conventional task is inadequate for assessing whether children regard moral (...) properties as response-dependent. Unfortunately, children's understanding of response-dependent properties has been neglected in recent research. Two experiments are reported showing that children are more likely to treat properties like fun and icky as response-dependent than moral properties like good and bad. Hence, this helps support the claim that children are moral objectivists. (shrink)
Shaun Nichols offers a naturalistic, psychological account of the origins of the problem of free will. He argues that our belief in indeterminist choice is grounded in faulty inference and therefore unjustified, goes on to suggest that there is no single answer to whether free will exists, and promotes a pragmatic approach to prescriptive issues.
The claim that common sense regards free will and moral responsibility as compatible with determinism has played a central role in both analytic and experimental philosophy. In this paper, we show that evidence in favor of this “natural compatibilism” is undermined by the role that indeterministic metaphysical views play in how people construe deterministic scenarios. To demonstrate this, we re-examine two classic studies that have been used to support natural compatibilism. We find that although people give apparently compatibilist responses, this (...) is largely explained by the fact that people import an indeterministic metaphysics into deterministic scenarios when making judgments about freedom and responsibility. We conclude that judgments based on these scenarios are not reliable evidence for natural compatibilism. (shrink)