Chairmen, Cocaine, and Car Crashes: The Knobe Effect as an Attribution Error

The Journal of Ethics 17 (4):305-330 (2013)
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In this paper, we argue that the so-called Knobe-Effect constitutes an error. There is now a wealth of data confirming that people are highly prone to what has also come to be known as the ‘side-effect effect’. That is, when attributing psychological states—such as intentionality, foreknowledge, and desiring—as well as other agential features—such as causal control—people typically do so to a greater extent when the action under consideration is evaluated negatively. There are a plethora of models attempting to account for this effect. We hold that the central question of interest is whether the effect represents a competence or an error in judgment. We offer a systematic argument for the claim that the burden of proof regarding this question is on the competence theorist. We sketch an account, based on the notion of the reactive attitudes, that can accommodate both the idea that these sorts of judgments are fundamentally normative and that they often constitute errors



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Author Profiles

Hanno Sauer
Utrecht University
Thomas Bates
Plymouth State College

References found in this work

Freedom and Resentment.Peter Strawson - 1962 - Proceedings of the British Academy 48:187-211.
Ethics and the limits of philosophy.Bernard Williams - 1985 - Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Responsibility and the Moral Sentiments.R. Jay Wallace - 1994 - Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.

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