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The Journal of Ethics

, Volume 17, Issue 4, pp 305–330 | Cite as

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

  • Hanno Sauer
  • Tom Bates
Article

Abstract

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.

Keywords

Moral responsibility Intentionality Experimental philosophy Joshua Knobe 

Notes

Acknowledgments

We would like to thank Pauline Kleingeld, Markus Schlosser, Frank Hindriks, Hichem Naar and audiences at Tilburg University, Eindhoven University, and at the Fourth Annual Dutch Conference in Practical Philosophy for helpful discussions. We are also grateful to two anonymous referees for comments. Research for this paper was funded by The Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO).

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyTilburg UniversityTilburgThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Institute for PhilosophyUniversity of LeidenLeidenThe Netherlands

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