The Causal Theory of Action and the Still Puzzling Knobe Effect

Nadelhoffer Thomas

in Causing Human Actions

Published by The MIT Press

Published in print August 2010 | ISBN: 9780262014564
Published online August 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780262289139 | DOI:
The Causal Theory of Action and the Still Puzzling Knobe Effect

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This chapter discusses the view that folk ascriptions of intentional action are sometimes driven not only by judgments concerning the mental states of the agents in question but also by the moral valence of the outcome of the action, the evidence of which are collectively known as the “Knobe effect.” This is contrary to the classical notion that the proper etiological explanation of intentional action is embedded exclusively in mentalistic terms, but the mounting evidence have led a number of philosophers to the conclusion that the concept of intentional action is inherently evaluative. In this chapter, arguments are presented for the relevance of data on folk intuitions to the philosophical project of providing an account of intentional action. The results of two new studies are presented, showing that Knobe’s confusing data is yet to be explained despite an advance in the understanding of the folk concept of intentional action.

Keywords: intentional action; mental states; moral valence; Knobe effect; etiological explanation; mentalistic terms; evaluative

Chapter.  7873 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Philosophy

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