, Volume 80, Issue 2, pp 445–466 | Cite as

Moral Valence and Semantic Intuitions

  • James R. Beebe
  • Ryan J. Undercoffer
Original Article


Despite the swirling tide of controversy surrounding the work of Machery et al. (Cognition 92:B1–B12, 2004), 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 (Analysis 63:190–193, 2003, Philos Psychol 16:309–324, 2003, Behav Brain Sci 33:315–329, 2010; Pettit and Knobe in Mind Lang 24:586–604, 2009) 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.


Semantics Philosophy of language Cross-cultural Experimental philosophy Knobe effect Moral valence 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity at BuffaloBuffaloUSA
  2. 2.Syracuse UniversitySyracuseUSA

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