Knobe (2003a, 2003b, 2004b) and others have demonstrated the surprising fact that the valence of a side-effect action can affect intuitions about whether that action was performed intentionally. Here we report the results of an experiment that extends these findings by testing for an analogous effect regarding knowledge attributions. Our results suggest that subjects are less likely to find that an agent knows an action will bring about a side-effect when the effect is good than when it is bad. It (...) is further argued that these findings, while preliminary, have important implications for recent debates within epistemology about the relationship between knowledge and action. (shrink)
We report the results of two studies that examine folk metaethical judgments about the objectivity of morality. We found that participants attributed almost as much objectivity to ethical statements as they did to statements of physical fact and significantly more objectivity to ethical statements than to statements about preferences or tastes. In both studies, younger participants attributed less objectivity to ethical statements than older participants. Females were observed to attribute slightly less objectivity to ethical statements than males, and we found (...) important interactions between attributions of objectivity and other factors, such as how strong participants’ moral opinions were and how much disagreement about the issue they perceived to exist within society. We believe our results have significant implications for debates about the nature of folk morality and about the nature of morality in general. (shrink)
We report the results of a study that investigated the views of researchers working in seven scientific disciplines and in history and philosophy of science in regard to four hypothesized dimensions of scientific realism. Among other things, we found that natural scientists tended to express more strongly realist views than social scientists, that history and philosophy of science scholars tended to express more antirealist views than natural scientists, that van Fraassen’s characterization of scientific realism failed to cluster with more standard (...) characterizations, and that those who endorsed the pessimistic induction were no more or less likely to endorse antirealism. (shrink)
We report and discuss the results of a series of experiments that address a contrast effect exhibited by folk judgments about knowledge ascriptions. The contrast effect, which was first reported by Schaffer and Knobe, is an important aspect of our folk epistemology. However, there are competing theoretical accounts of it. We shed light on the various accounts by providing novel empirical data and theoretical considerations. Our key findings are, firstly, that belief ascriptions exhibit a similar contrast effect and, secondly, that (...) the contrast effect is systematically sensitive to the content of what is in contrast. We argue that these data pose significant challenges to contrastivist accounts of the contrast effect. Furthermore, some of the data set provides, in conjunction with some non-empirical epistemological arguments, some limited evidence for what we call a focal bias account of the data. According to the focal bias account, the contrast effects arise at least in part because epistemically relevant facts are not always adequately processed when they are presented in certain ways. (shrink)
Abductivists claim that explanatory considerations (e.g., simplicity, parsimony, explanatory breadth, etc.) favor belief in the external world over skeptical hypotheses involving evil demons and brains in vats. After showing how most versions of abductivism succumb fairly easily to obvious and fatal objections, I explain how rationalist versions of abductivism can avoid these difficulties. I then discuss the most pressing challenges facing abductivist appeals to the a priori and offer suggestions on how to overcome them.
Recent work in experimental philosophy has shown that people are more likely to attribute intentionality, knowledge, and other psychological properties to someone who causes a bad side effect than to someone who causes a good one. We argue that all of these asymmetries can be explained in terms of a single underlying asymmetry involving belief attribution because the belief that one’s action would result in a certain side effect is a necessary component of each of the psychological attitudes in question. (...) We argue further that this belief-attribution asymmetry is rational because it mirrors a belief-formation asymmetry, and that thebelief-formation asymmetry is also rational because it is more useful to form some beliefs than others. (shrink)
Th e present article reports a series of experiments designed to extend the empirical investigation of folk metaethical intuitions by examining how different kinds of ethical disagreement can impact attributions of objectivity to ethical claims.
A number of researchers have begun to demonstrate that the widely discussed ?Knobe effect? (wherein participants are more likely to think that actions with bad side-effects are brought about intentionally than actions with good or neutral side-effects) can be found in theory of mind judgments that do not involve the concept of intentional action. In this article we report experimental results that show that attributions of knowledge can be influenced by the kinds of (non-epistemic) concerns that drive the Knobe effect. (...) Our findings suggest there is good reason to think that the epistemic version of the Knobe effect is a theoretically significant and robust effect, and that the goodness or badness of side-effects can often have greater influence on participant knowledge attributions than explicit information about objective probabilities. Thus, our work sheds light on important ways in which participant assessments of actions can affect the epistemic assessments participants make of agents? beliefs. (shrink)
Recent empirical work on folk moral objectivism has attempted to examine the extent to which folk morality presumes that moral judgments are objectively true or false. Some researchers report findings that they take to indicate folk commitment to objectivism (Goodwin & Darley, 2008, 2010, 2012; Nichols & Folds-Bennett, 2003; Wainryb et al., 2004), while others report findings that may reveal a more variable commitment to objectivism (Beebe, 2014; Beebe et al., 2015; Beebe & Sackris, 2016; Sarkissian, et al., 2011; Wright, (...) 2018; Wright, Grandjean, & McWhite, 2013; Wright, McWhite, & Grandjean, 2014). However, the various probes that have been used to examine folk moral objectivism almost always fail to be good direct measures of objectivism. Some critics (Beebe, 2015; Pölzler, 2017, 2018) have suggested that the problems with existing probes are serious enough that they should be viewed as largely incapable of shedding any light on folk metaethical commitments. Building upon the work of Justin Khoo and Joshua Knobe (2018), I argue that many of the existing probes can be seen as good measures of the extent to which people think that the truth of one moral judgment excludes the possibility that a judgment made by a disagreeing party is also true and that the best explanation of the findings obtained using these measures is significant folk support for indexical moral relativism—the view that the content of moral judgments is context-sensitive. If my thesis is correct, many contemporary moral philosophers are deeply mistaken about the metaethical contours of folk morality in one very important respect. (shrink)
In 2004 Edouard Machery, Ron Mallon, Shaun Nichols and Stephen Stich published what has become one of the most widely discussed papers in experimental philosophy, in which they reported that East Asian and Western participants had different intuitions about the semantic reference of proper names. A flurry of criticisms of their work has emerged, and although various replications have been performed, many critics remain unconvinced. We review the current debate over Machery et al.’s (2004) results and take note of which (...) objections to their work have been satisfactorily answered and which ones still need to be addressed. We then report the results of studies that reveal significant cross-cultural and intra-cultural differences in semantic intuitions when we control for variables that critics allege have had a potentially distorting effect on Machery et al.’s findings. These variables include the epistemic perspective from which participants are supposed to understand the research materials, unintended anchoring effects of those materials, and pragmatic factors involved in the interpretation of speech acts within them. Our results confirm the robustness of the cross-cultural differences observed by Machery et al. and thereby strengthen the philosophical challenge they pose. (shrink)
Knobe (Analysis 63:190-193, 2003a, Philosophical Psychology 16:309-324, 2003b, Analysis 64:181-187, 2004b) found that people are more likely to attribute intentionality to agents whose actions resulted in negative side-effects that to agents whose actions resulted in positive ones. Subsequent investigation has extended this result to a variety of other folk psychological attributions. The present article reports experimental findings that demonstrate an analogous effect for belief ascriptions. Participants were found to be more likely to ascribe belief, higher degrees of belief, higher degrees (...) of rational belief, and dispositional belief to agents in central Knobe effect cases who bring about negative side-effects than to agents who bring about positive ones. These findings present a significant challenge to widely held views about the Knobe effect, since many explanations of it assume that agents in contrasting pairs of Knobe effect cases do not differ with respect to their beliefs. Participants were also found to be more confident that knowledge should be attributed than they were that belief or dispositional belief should be attributed. This finding strengthens the challenge that Myers-Schulz and Schwitzgebel (2013) have launched against the traditional view that knowledge entails belief. (shrink)
In this paper I critically examine the Generality Problem and argue that it does not succeed as an objection to reliabilism. Although those who urge the Generality Problem are correct in claiming that any process token can be given indefinitely many descriptions that pick out indefinitely many process types, they are mistaken in thinking that reliabilists have no principled way to distinguish between relevant and irrelevant process types.
Drawing upon work in evolutionary game theory and experimental philosophy, I argue that one of the roles the concept of knowledge plays in our social cognitive ecology is that of enabling us to make adaptively important distinctions between different kinds of blameworthy and blameless behaviors. In particular, I argue that knowledge enables us to distinguish which agents are most worthy of blame for inflicting harms, violating social norms, or cheating in situations of social exchange.
Justification has long been considered a necessary condition for knowledge, and theories that deny the necessity of justification have been dismissed as nonstarters. In this chapter, we challenge this long-standing view by showing that many of the arguments offered in support of it fall short and by providing empirical evidence that individuals are often willing to attribute knowledge when epistemic justification is lacking.
Consider the following facts about the average, philosophically untrained moral relativist: (1.1) The average moral relativist denies the existence of “absolute moral truths.” (1.2) The average moral relativist often expresses her commitment to moral relativism with slogans like ‘What’s true (or right) for you may not be what’s true (or right) for me’ or ‘What’s true (or right) for your culture may not be what’s true (or right) for my culture.’ (1.3) The average moral relativist endorses relativistic views of morality (...) without endorsing relativistic views about science or mathematics. (1.4) The average moral relativist takes moral relativism to be non-relatively true and does not think there is anything contradictory about doing so. (1.5) The average moral relativist adopts an egalitarian attitude toward a wide range of moral values, practices and beliefs, claiming they are all equally legitimate or correct. (1.6) The average moral relativist often admonishes others to be more tolerant of those who engage in alternative ethical practices and to refrain from making negative moral judgments about them. (1.7) The average moral relativist sometimes makes negative moral judgments about the behavior of others—e.g., by harshly judging moral absolutists to be intolerant—but is less inclined to do so when the relativist’s metaethical views are salient in a context of judgment. (1.8) The average moral relativist takes anthropological evidence concerning the worldwide diversity of ethical views and practices to support moral relativism. (shrink)
We report experimental results showing that participants are more likely to attribute knowledge in familiar Gettier cases when the would-be knowers are performing actions that are negative in some way (e.g. harmful, blameworthy, norm-violating) than when they are performing positive or neutral actions. Our experiments bring together important elements from the Gettier case literature in epistemology and the Knobe effect literature in experimental philosophy and reveal new insights into folk patterns of knowledge attribution.
We report the results of an exploratory study that examines the judgments of climate scientists, climate policy experts, astrophysicists, and non-experts (N = 3367) about the factors that contribute to the creation and persistence of disagreement within climate science and astrophysics and about how one should respond to expert disagreement. We found that, as compared to non-experts, climate experts believe that within climate science (i) there is less disagreement about climate change, (ii) methodological factors play less of a role in (...) generating disagreements, (iii) fewer personal or institutional biases influence climate research, and (iv) there is more agreement about which methods should be used to examine relevant phenomena we also observed that the uniquely American political context predicted experts’ judgments about some of these factors. We also found that, in regard to disagreements concerning cosmic ray physics, and commensurate with the greater inherent uncertainty and data lacunae in their field, astrophysicists working on cosmic rays were generally more willing to acknowledge expert disagreement, more open to the idea that a set of data can have multiple valid interpretations, and generally less quick to dismiss someone articulating a non-standard view as non-expert, than climate scientists were in regard to climate science. (shrink)
In this article I investigate a neglected form of radical skepticism that questions whether any of our logical, mathematical and other seemingly self-evident beliefs count as knowledge. ‘A priori skepticism,’ as I will call it, challenges our ability to know any of the following sorts of propositions: (1.1) The sum of two and three is five. (1.2) Whatever is square is rectangular. (1.3) Whatever is red is colored. (1.4) No surface can be uniformly red and uniformly blue at the same (...) time. (1.5) If ‘if p then q’ is true and ‘p’ is true, then ‘q’ is true. (1.6) No statement can be both true and false at the same time and in the same respect. (1.7) If A is taller than B, and B is taller than C, then A is taller than C. (1.8) Everything is identical to itself. (1.9) If the conclusion of an inductive argument is contingent, it is possible for the premises of that argument to be true and its conclusion to be false. (1.10) George W. Bush could have been a plumber. (1.11) George W. Bush could not have been a prime number. (1.12) ‘2 + 3 = 5’ is necessarily true. (shrink)
Experimental philosophers have recently begun to investigate the folk conception of weakness of will (e.g., Mele in Philos Stud 150:391–404, 2010; May and Holton in Philos Stud 157:341–360, 2012; Beebe forthcoming; Sousa and Mauro forthcoming). Their work has focused primarily on the ways in which akrasia (i.e., acting contrary to one’s better judgment), unreasonable violations of resolutions, and variations in the moral valence of actions modulate folk attributions of weakness of will. A key finding that has emerged from this research (...) is that—contrary to the predominant view in the history of philosophy—ordinary participants do not think of weakness of will solely in terms of akrasia but see resolution violations and moral evaluations as playing equally important roles. The present article extends this line of research by reporting the results of four experiments that investigate (i) the interplay between hastily revising one’s resolutions and the degree of reasonableness of the actions one had resolved to undertake, (ii) whether ordinary participants are willing to ascribe weakness of will to agents whose actions stem from compulsion or addiction, and (iii) the respects in which akratic action, resolution violations, and the seriousness of an addiction impact attributions of weakness of will to agents acting in accord with their addictions. (shrink)
Despite the swirling tide of controversy surrounding the work of Machery et al. , the cross-cultural differences they observed in semantic intuitions about the reference of proper names have proven to be robust. In the present article, we report cross-cultural and individual differences in semantic intuitions obtained using new experimental materials. In light of the pervasiveness of the Knobe effect and the fact that Machery et al.’s original materials incorporated elements of wrongdoing but did not control for their influence, we (...) also examined the question of whether the moral valence of actions described in experimental materials might affect participants’ responses. Our results suggest that uncontrolled moral valence did not distort participants’ judgments in previous research. Our findings provide further confirmation of the robustness of cross-cultural and intra-cultural differences in semantic intuitions and strengthen the philosophical challenge that they pose. (shrink)
We report the results of four empirical studies designed to investigate the extent to which an epistemic closure principle for knowledge is reflected in folk epistemology. Previous work by Turri (2015a) suggested that our shared epistemic practices may only include a source-relative closure principle—one that applies to perceptual beliefs but not to inferential beliefs. We argue that the results of our studies provide reason for thinking that individuals are making a performance error when their knowledge attributions and denials conflict with (...) the closure principle. When we used research materials that overcome what we think are difficulties with Turri’s original materials, we found that participants did not reject closure. Furthermore, when we presented Turri’s original materials to non-philosophers with expertise in deductive reasoning (viz., professional mathematicians), they endorsed closure for both perceptual and inferential beliefs. Our results suggest that an unrestricted closure principle—one that applies to all beliefs, regardless of their source—provides a better model of folk patterns of knowledge attribution than a source-relative closure principle. (shrink)
Experimental epistemology uses experimental methods of the cognitive sciences to shed light on debates within epistemology,the philosophical study of knowledge and rationally justified belief. In this first critical collection on this exciting new subfield, leading researchers tackle key questions pertaining to knowledge, evidence, and rationally justified belief.
Jeffrey Brower has recently articulated a way to make sense of the doctrine of divine simplicity using resources from contemporary truthmaker theory. Noël Saenz has advanced two objections to Brower’s account, arguing that it violates constraints on adequate metaphysical explanations at various points. I argue that Saenz’s objections fail to show that Brower’s account is explanatorily inadequate.
A common response to radical skeptical challenges to our knowledge of the external world has been that there are explanatory reasons (e.g., simplicity, coherence, explanatory power, conservatism) for favoring commonsense explanations of our sensory experiences over skeptical explanations. Despite the degree of visibility this class of response has enjoyed, it has often been viewed with skepticism [sic] by the epistemological community because of concerns about the epistemic merits of explanatory reasoning. I argue that skeptical challenges that employ skeptical hypotheses presuppose (...) central explanationist tenets and that this fact should raise one’s estimation of the strength of explanationist responses to skepticism. (shrink)
Confused terms appear to signify more than one entity. Carnap maintained that any putative name that is associated with more than one object in a relevant universe of discourse fails to be a genuine name. Although many philosophers have agreed with Carnap, they have not always agreed among themselves about the truth-values of atomic sentences containing such terms. Some hold that such atomic sentences are always false, and others claim they are always truth-valueless. Field maintained that confused terms can still (...) refer, albeit partially, and offered a supervaluational account of their semantic properties on which some atomic sentences with confused terms can be true. After outlining many of the most important theoretical considerations for and against various semantic theories for such terms, we report the results of a study designed to investigate which of these accounts best accords with the truth-value judgments of ordinary language users about sentences containing these terms. We found that naïve participants view confused names as capable of successfully referring to one or more objects. Thus, semantic theories that judge them to involve total reference failure do not comport well with patterns of ordinary usage. (shrink)
The existence of evil and suffering in our world seems to pose a serious challenge to belief in the existence of a perfect God. If God were all-knowing, it seems that God would know about all of the horrible things that happen in our world. If God were all-powerful, God would be able to do something about all of the evil and suffering. Furthermore, if God were morally perfect, then surely God would want to do something about it. And yet (...) we find that our world is filled with countless instances of evil and suffering. These facts about evil and suffering seem to conflict with the orthodox theist claim that there exists a perfectly good God. The challenged posed by this apparent conflict has come to be known as the problem of evil. (shrink)
Some philosophers working on the epistemology of disagreement claim that conciliationist responses to peer disagreement embody a kind of intellectual humility. Others contend that standing firm or “sticking to one’s guns” in the face of peer disagreement may stem from an admirable kind of courage or internal fortitude. In this paper, we report the results of two empirical studies that examine the relationship between conciliationist and steadfast responses to peer disagreement, on the one hand, and virtues such as intellectual humility, (...) courage, grit, and actively open-minded thinking, on the other. We observed positive correlations between measures of conciliationism, intellectual humility, and actively open-minded thinking but failed to find any reliable association between steadfastness, courage, and grit. Our studies reveal that there are at least two important intellectual virtues associated with conciliationist responses to peer disagreement (viz., intellectual humility and actively open-minded thinking) and two vices associated with steadfast responses (intellectual arrogance and myside bias). These findings shed new light on the overall epistemic goodness of the conciliationist perspective. -/- keywords: disagreement, conciliationism, steadfastness, intellectual humility, courage, actively open-minded thinking. (shrink)
The abductivist reply to skepticism is the view that commonsense explanations of the patterns and regularities that appear in our sensory experiences should be rationally preferred to skeptical explanations of those same patterns and regularities on the basis of explanatory considerations. In this article I critically examine Laurence BonJour’s rationalist version of the abductivist position. After explaining why BonJour’s account is more defensible than other versions of the view, I argue that the notion of probability he relies upon is deeply (...) problematic, that he incorporates an implausible double-standard concerning a priori and a posteriori justification, and that his view is vulnerable to skepticism about the a priori. I suggest that some of these problems are due to idiosyncratic commitments BonJour makes and that abductivists would be better off without them. I conclude with some suggestions about how to improve BonJour’s abductivist response to skepticism. (shrink)
Experimental philosophers have investigated various ways in which non‐epistemic evaluations can affect knowledge attributions. For example, several teams of researchers (Beebe and Buckwalter 2010; Beebe and Jensen 2012; Schaffer and Knobe 2012; Beebe and Shea 2013; Buckwalter 2014b; Turri 2014) report that the goodness or badness of an agent’s action can affect whether the agent is taken to have certain kinds of knowledge. These findings raise important questions about how patterns of folk knowledge attributions should influence philosophical theorizing about knowledge.
Within the cognitive science of religion, some scholars hypothesize (1) that minimally counterintuitive (MCI) concepts enjoy a transmission advantage over both intuitive and highly counterintuitive concepts, (2) that religions concern counterintuitive agents, objects, or events, and (3) that the transmission advantage of MCI concepts makes them more likely to be found in the world’s religions than other kinds of concepts. We hypothesized that the memorability of many MCI supernatural concepts was due in large part to other characteristics they possess, such (...) as their frequent and salient association with moral concerns and the alleviation of existential anxieties, and that without such characteristics they would fail to be memorable. We report the results of three experiments designed to test the relative contributions of minimal counterintuitiveness, moral valence, and existential anxiety to the memorability of supernatural ideas. We observed no main effects for minimal counterintuitiveness but did observe main effects for both moral valence and existential anxiety. We also found that these effects did not seem to stem from the greater visualizability of morally valenced concepts or concepts that concerned existential anxieties. These findings challenge important claims made by leading researchers regarding MCI concepts within the cognitive science of religion. (shrink)
In this article I examine several issues concerning reliabilism and deflationism. I critique Alvin Goldman's account of the key differences between correspondence and deflationary theories and his claim that reliabilism can be combined only with those truth theories that maintain a commitment to truthmakers. I then consider how reliability could be analysed from a deflationary perspective and show that deflationism is compatible with reliabilism. I close with a discussion of whether a deflationary theory of knowledge is possible.
I reconstruct and critique two arguments Laurence BonJour has recently offered against skepticism about the a priori. While the arguments may provide anti-skeptical, internalist foundationalists with reason to accept the a priori, I show that neither argument provides sufficient reason for believing the more general conclusion that there is no rational alternative to accepting the a priori.
_ Source: _Page Count 12 In a previous article, I argued against the widespread reluctance of philosophers to treat skeptical challenges to our a priori knowledge of necessary truths with the same seriousness as skeptical challenges to our a posteriori knowledge of contingent truths. Hamid Vahid has recently offered several reasons for thinking the unequal treatment of these two kinds of skepticism is justified, one of which is a priori skepticism’s seeming dependence upon the widely scorned kk thesis. In the (...) present article, I defend a priori skepticism against Vahid’s criticisms. (shrink)
One branch of Alvin Goldman's proposed "scientific epistemology" is devoted to the scientific study of how folk epistemic evaluators acquire and deploy the concepts of knowledge and justified belief. The author argues that such a "descriptive epistemology," as Goldman calls it, requires a more sophisticated theory of interpretation than is provided by the simulation theory Goldman adopts. The author also argues that any adequate account of folk epistemic concepts must reconstruct the intersubjective conceptual roles those concepts play in discursive practices. (...) In other words, descriptive epistemology also requires a theory of communicative action and an account of the practical abilities agents must have to engage in discursive practices. (shrink)
Stephen Stich (1990) has argued that our commitment to truth is parochial, arbitrary, and idiosyncratic. Truth, according to Stich, can be analyzed in terms of reference and predicate satisfaction. If our intuitions about reference can change, this means that our concept of truth can change. If there can be many distinct concepts of truth, our seemingly unreflective commitment to the one we have inherited seems unmotivated. I argue that deflationism about truth possesses sufficient resources to turn back Stich’s skeptical challenge. (...) If, as deflationism claims, no analysis of truth can be given, Stich’s argument cannot succeed. I argue that deflationism is correct by showing that differences in reference do not lead to distinct concepts of truth. I also show that deflationism can clarify what it is we care about when we care about whether our beliefs are true. To care whether p is true is simply to care whether p. (shrink)
Prosentential theorists claim that sentences such as “That’s true” are prosentences that function analogously to their better known cousins–pronouns. For example, just as we might use the pronoun ‘he’ in place of ‘James’ to transform “James went to the supermarket” into “He went to the supermarket,” so we might use the prosentenceforming operator ‘is true’ to transform “Snow is white” into “‘Snow is white’ is true.” According to the prosentential theory of truth, whenever a referring expression (for example, a definite (...) description or a quote-name) is joined to the truth predicate, the resulting statement contains no more content than the sentence(s) picked out by the referring expression. To assert that a sentence is true is simply to assert or reassert that sentence; it is not to ascribe the property of truth to that sentence. The prosentential theory is one kind of deflationary theory of truth. Like all deflationary theories, it provides an alternative to explanations of truth that analyze truth in terms of reference, predicate satisfaction or a correspondence relation. (shrink)
Defenders of the prosentential theory of truth claim that the English language contains prosentences which function analogously to their better known cousins – pronouns. Statements such as ‘That is true’ or ‘It is true’, they claim, inherit their content from antecedent statements, just as pronouns inherit their reference from antecedent singular terms. Prosentential theorists claim that the content of these prosentences is exhausted by the content of their antecedents. They then use the notion of the inheritance of content from an (...) antecedent to explain the various functions of the predicate ‘. . . is true’. Defenders of the prosentential theory of truth are mistaken, I claim, in thinking that in order to oppose the view that ‘. . . is true’ is used to ascribe a substantive truth property to propositions they need to claim that no uses of ‘. . . is true’ ever attribute any property. I identify an ‘attributive’ use of prosentences in which reliability is implicitly attributed to a subject. I then use the capacity of prosentences to serve as implicit attributions of reliability as a basis for explicating the logical structure of explicit attributions of reliability. The identification of an attributive use of prosentences does not constitute a fundamental change in the prosentential theory. (shrink)