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)
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)
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)
In the remainder of this article, we will disarm an important motivation for epistemic contextualism and interest-relative invariantism. We will accomplish this by presenting a stringent test of whether there is a stakes effect on ordinary knowledge ascription. Having shown that, even on a stringent way of testing, stakes fail to impact ordinary knowledge ascription, we will conclude that we should take another look at classical invariantism. Here is how we will proceed. Section 1 lays out some limitations of previous (...) research on stakes. Section 2 presents our study and concludes that there is little evidence for a substantial stakes effect. Section 3 responds to objections. The conclusion clears the way for classical invariantism. (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.
Does the Ship of Theseus present a genuine puzzle about persistence due to conflicting intuitions based on “continuity of form” and “continuity of matter” pulling in opposite directions? Philosophers are divided. Some claim that it presents a genuine puzzle but disagree over whether there is a solution. Others claim that there is no puzzle at all since the case has an obvious solution. To assess these proposals, we conducted a cross-cultural study involving nearly 3,000 people across twenty-two countries, speaking eighteen (...) different languages. Our results speak against the proposal that there is no puzzle at all and against the proposal that there is a puzzle but one that has no solution. Our results suggest that there are two criteria—“continuity of form” and “continuity of matter”— that constitute our concept of persistence and these two criteria receive different weightings in settling matters concerning persistence. (shrink)
Recently psychologists and experimental philosophers have reported findings showing that in some cases ordinary people's moral intuitions are affected by factors of dubious relevance to the truth of the content of the intuition. Some defend the use of intuition as evidence in ethics by arguing that philosophers are the experts in this area, and philosophers' moral intuitions are both different from those of ordinary people and more reliable. We conducted two experiments indicating that philosophers and non-philosophers do indeed sometimes have (...) different moral intuitions, but challenging the notion that philosophers have better or more reliable intuitions. (shrink)
From Descartes to Popper, philosophers have criticized and tried to improve the strategies of reasoning invoked in science and in everyday life. In recent years leading cognitive psychologists have painted a detailed, controversial, and highly critical portrait of common sense reasoning. Stephen Stich begins with a spirited defense of this work and a critique of those writers who argue that widespread irrationality is a biological or conceptual impossibility.Stich then explores the nature of rationality and irrationality: What is it that distinguishes (...) good reasoning from bad? He rejects the most widely accepted approaches to this question approaches which unpack rationality by appeal to truth, to reflective equilibrium or conceptual analysis. The alternative he defends grows out of the pragmatic tradition in which reasoning is viewed as a cognitive tool. Stich's version of pragmatism leads to a radical epistemic relativism and he argues that the widespread abhorrence of relativism is ill founded. (shrink)
In this article, we present evidence that in four different cultural groups that speak quite different languages there are cases of justified true beliefs that are not judged to be cases of knowledge. We hypothesize that this intuitive judgment, which we call “the Gettier intuition,” may be a reflection of an underlying innate and universal core folk epistemology, and we highlight the philosophical significance of its universality.
In epistemology, fake-barn thought experiments are often taken to be intuitively clear cases in which a justified true belief does not qualify as knowledge. We report a study designed to determine whether non-philosophers share this intuition. The data suggest that while participants are less inclined to attribute knowledge in fake-barn cases than in unproblematic cases of knowledge, they nonetheless do attribute knowledge to protagonists in fake-barn cases. Moreover, the intuition that fake-barn cases do count as knowledge is negatively correlated with (...) age; older participants are less likely than younger participants to attribute knowledge in fake-barn cases. We also found that increasing the number of defeaters (fakes) does not decrease the inclination to attribute knowledge. (shrink)
In recent years, there has been much concern expressed about the under-representation of women in academic philosophy. Our goal in this paper is to call attention to a cluster of phenomena that may be contributing to this gender gap. The findings we review indicate that when women and men with little or no philosophical training are presented with standard philosophical thought experiments, in many cases their intuitions about these cases are significantly different. In section 1 we review some of the (...) data on the under-representation of women in academic philosophy. In section 2 we explain how we use the term 'intuition,' and offer a brief account of how intuitions are invoked in philosophical argument and philosophical theory building. In the third section we set out the evidence for gender differences in philosophical intuition and mention some evidence about gender differences in decisions and behaviors that are (or should be) of considerable interest to philosophers. In the fourth section, our focus changes from facts to hypotheses. In that section we explain how differences in philosophical intuition might be an important part of the explanation for the gender gap in philosophy. The fifth section is a brief conclusion. (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)
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)
It is argued that the intuitively sanctioned distinction between beliefs and non-belief states that play a role in the proximate causal history of beliefs is a distinction worth preserving in cognitive psychology. The intuitive distinction is argued to rest on a pair of features exhibited by beliefs but not by subdoxastic states. These are access to consciousness and inferential integration. Harman's view, which denies the distinction between beliefs and subdoxastic states, is discussed and criticized.
Intuitions play an important role in contemporary epistemology. Over the last decade, however, experimental philosophers have published a number of studies suggesting that epistemic intuitions may vary in ways that challenge the widespread reliance on intuitions in epistemology. In a recent paper, Jennifer Nagel offers a pair of arguments aimed at showing that epistemic intuitions do not, in fact, vary in problematic ways. One of these arguments relies on a number of claims defended by appeal to the psychological literature on (...) intuitive judgment and on mental state attribution (also known as “theory of mind”, “mindreading” and “folk psychology”). I call this the "theoretical argument". The other argument relies on recent experimental work carried out by Nagel and her collaborators. It is my contention that in setting out her theoretical argument, Nagel offers an account of the relevant scientific literature that is, in crucial respects, flawed and misleading. My main goal in this paper is to rectify these errors and to make it clear that, once this is done, Nagel’s theoretical argument collapses. Since Nagel’s experimental work has not yet been published, and available details are very sketchy, I do not discuss this work in detail. However, in the final section of the paper I offer some critical observations about Nagel’s strategy for dealing with empirical data that does not support her view – both other people’s and her own. (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)
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)
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)
This article examines whether people share the Gettier intuition (viz. that someone who has a true justified belief that p may nonetheless fail to know that p) in 24 sites, located in 23 countries (counting Hong-Kong as a distinct country) and across 17 languages. We also consider the possible influence of gender and personality on this intuition with a very large sample size. Finally, we examine whether the Gettier intuition varies across people as a function of their disposition to engage (...) in “reflective” thinking. (shrink)
A number of studies have shown that seemingly morally irrelevant factors influence the moral judgments of ordinary people. Some argue that philosophers are experts and are significantly less susceptible to such effects. We tested whether an unconscious cleanliness prime – the smell of Lysol – affects the judgments of both non-philosophers and professional philosophers. Our results suggest that the direction of cleanliness effects depends both on the respondent and whether the question is framed in the second or third person. They (...) also provide evidence that cleanliness cues affect the moral judgments of both non-philosophers and philosophers, challenging the philosopher-as-expert view. (shrink)
Over the last two decades, debates over the viability of commonsense psychology have been center stage in both cognitive science and the philosophy of mind. Eliminativists have argued that advances in cognitive science and neuroscience will ultimately justify a rejection of our "folk" theory of the mind, and of its ontology. In the first half of this book Stich, who was at one time a leading advocate of eliminativism, maintains that even if the sciences develop in the ways that eliminativists (...) foresee, none of the arguments for ontological elimination are tenable. Rather than being resolved by science, he contends, these ontological disputes will be settled by a pragmatic process in which social and political considerations have a major role to play. In later chapters, Stich argues that the widespread worry about "naturalizing" psychological properties is deeply confused, since there is no plausible account of what naturalizing requires on which the failure of the naturalization project would lead to eliminativism. He also offers a detailed analysis of the many different notions of folk psychology to be found in philosophy and psychology, and argues that simulation theory, which purports to be an alternative to folk psychology, is not supported by recent experimental findings. (shrink)
If intuitions are associated with gender this might help to explain the fact that while the gender gap has disappeared in many other learned clubs, women are still seriously under-represented in the Philosophers Club. Since people who don’t have the intuitions that most club members share have a harder time getting into the club, and since the majority of Philosophers are now and always have been men, perhaps the under-representation of women is due, in part, to a selection effect.
Intent and mitigating circumstances play a central role in moral and legal assessments in large-scale industrialized societies. Al- though these features of moral assessment are widely assumed to be universal, to date, they have only been studied in a narrow range of societies. We show that there is substantial cross-cultural variation among eight traditional small-scale societies (ranging from hunter-gatherer to pastoralist to horticulturalist) and two Western societies (one urban, one rural) in the extent to which intent and mitigating circumstances influence (...) moral judgments. Although participants in all societies took such factors into account to some degree, they did so to very different extents, varying in both the types of considerations taken into account and the types of violations to which such considerations were applied. The particular patterns of assessment characteristic of large-scale industrialized societies may thus reflect relatively recently culturally evolved norms rather than inherent features of human moral judgment. (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)
Humans are unique in the animal world in the extent to which their day-to-day behavior is governed by a complex set of rules and principles commonly called norms. Norms delimit the bounds of proper behavior in a host of domains, providing an invisible web of normative structure embracing virtually all aspects of social life. People also find many norms to be deeply meaningful. Norms give rise to powerful subjective feelings that, in the view of many, are an important part of (...) what it is to be a human agent. Despite the vital role of norms in human lives and human behavior, and the central role they play in explanations in the social sciences, there has been very little systematic attention devoted to norms in cognitive science. Much existing research is partial and piecemeal, making it difficult to know how individual findings cohere into a comprehensive picture. Our goal in this essay is to offer an account of the psychological mechanisms and processes underlying norms that integrates what is known and can serve as a framework for future research. (shrink)
This essay grows out of the conviction that recent work by psychologists studying human reasoning has important implications for a broad range of philosophical issues. To illustrate our thesis we focus on Nelson Goodman's elegant and influential attempt to "dissolve" the problem of induction. In the first section of the paper we sketch Goodman's account of what it is for a rule of inference to be justified. We then marshal empirical evidence indicating that, on Goodman's account of justification, patently invalid (...) inferential rules turn out to be "justified." We conclude that something is seriously wrong with Goodman's story about justification. In the second section we attempt to patch Goodman's account. The notion of epistemic authority and the social aspect of justification play central roles in the alternative account of justification that we propose. (shrink)
In this book, Stich unravels - or deconstructs - the doctrine called "eliminativism". Eliminativism claims that beliefs, desires, and many other mental states we use to describe the mind do not exist, but are fiction posits of a badly mistaken theory of "folk psychology". Stich makes a u-turn in his book, opening up new and controversial positions.
This chapter addresses the issue of the underrepresentation of women in philosophy by presenting an account regarding gender differences in philosophical institutions. It begins with an analysis of data on the gender gap in academic philosophy; followed by a discussion about the term “intuition,”as well as the tendency to appeal to intuitions during philosophical arguments. It then presents empirical data about gender differences derived from a series of experiments such as a Gettier-style case study of Christina Starmans and Ori Friedman, (...) a philosophical thought experiment of Geoffrey Holtzman, and one of David Pizarro about moral responsibility and causal deviance, among others; one hypothesis derived from these studies pertains to the distinct differences between women and mens' intuitions regarding philosophy, with the instructors deciding that the mens' are more correct. (shrink)
A venerable view, still very much alive, holds that human action is to be explained at least in part in terms of beliefs and desires. Those who advocate the view expect that the psychological theory which explains human behavior will invoke the concepts of belief and desire in a substantive way. I will call this expectation the belief-desire thesis. Though there would surely be a quibble or a caveat here and there, the thesis would be endorsed by an exceptionally heterogeneous (...) collection of psychologists and philosophers ranging from Freud and Hume, to Thomas Szasz and Richard Brandt. Indeed, a number of philosophers have contended that the thesis, or something like it, is embedded in our ordinary, workaday concept of action. If they are right, and I think they are, then insofar as we use the concept of action we are all committed to the belief-desire thesis. My purpose in this paper is to explore the tension between the belief-desire thesis and a widely held assumption about the nature of explanatory psychological theories, an assumption that serves as a fundamental regulative principle for much of contemporary psychological theorizing. This assumption, which for want of a better term I will call the principle of psychological autonomy, will be the focus of the first of the sections below. In the second section I will elaborate a bit on how the belief-desire thesis is to be interpreted, and try to extract from it a principle that will serve as a premise in the argument to follow. In the third section I will set out an argument to the effect that large numbers of belief-desire explanations of action, indeed perhaps the bulk of such explanations, are incompatible with the principle of autonomy. Finally, in the last section, I will fend off a possible objection to my argument. In the process, I will try to make clear just why the argument works and what price we should have to pay if we were resolved to avoid its consequences. (shrink)
Moral psychology investigates human functioning in moral contexts, and asks how these results may impact debate in ethical theory. This work is necessarily interdisciplinary, drawing on both the empirical resources of the human sciences and the conceptual resources of philosophical ethics. The present article discusses several topics that illustrate this type of inquiry: thought experiments, responsibility, character, egoism v . altruism, and moral disagreement.
Is behavioral integration (i.e., which occurs when a subjects assertion that p matches her non-verbal behavior) a necessary feature of belief in folk psychology? Our data from nearly 6,000 people across twenty-six samples, spanning twenty-two countries suggests that it is not. Given the surprising cross-cultural robustness of our findings, we suggest that the types of evidence for the ascription of a belief are, at least in some circumstances, lexicographically ordered: assertions are first taken into account, and when an agent sincerely (...) asserts that p, non-linguistic behavioral evidence is disregarded. In light of this, we take ourselves to have discovered a universal principle governing the ascription of beliefs in folk psychology. (shrink)
During the last 25 years, researchers studying human reasoning and judgment in what has become known as the “heuristics and biases” tradition have produced an impressive body of experimental work which many have seen as having “bleak implications” for the rationality of ordinary people (Nisbett and Borgida 1975). According to one proponent of this view, when we reason about probability we fall victim to “inevitable illusions” (Piattelli-Palmarini 1994). Other proponents maintain that the human mind is prone to “systematic deviations from (...) rationality” (Bazerman & Neale 1986) and is “not built to work by the rules of probability” (Gould 1992). It has even been suggested that human beings are “a species that is uniformly probability-blind” (Piattelli-Palmarini 1994). This provocative and pessimistic interpretation of the experimental findings has been challenged from many different directions over the years. One of the most recent and energetic of these challenges has come from the newly emerging field of evolutionary psychology, where it has been argued that it’s singularly implausible to claim that our species would have evolved with no “instinct for probability” and, hence, be “blind to chance” (Pinker 1997, 351). Though evolutionary psychologists concede that it is possible to design experiments that “trick our probability.. (shrink)
We begin, in section 2, with a brief sketch of a cluster of assumptions about human desires, beliefs, actions, and motivation that are widely shared by historical and contemporary authors on both sides in the debate. With this as background, we’ll be able to offer a more sharply focused account of the debate. In section 3, our focus will be on links between evolutionary theory and the egoism/altruism debate. There is a substantial literature employing evolutionary theory on each side of (...) the issue. However, it is our contention that neither camp has offered a convincing case. We are much more sanguine about recent research on altruism in social psychology, which will be our topic in section 4. Though we don’t think this work has resolved the debate, we will argue that it has made illuminating progress – progress that philosophers interested in the question cannot afford to ignore. (shrink)