Do bad people know more? Interactions between attributions of knowledge and blame
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- Beebe, J.R. Synthese (2016) 193: 2633. doi:10.1007/s11229-015-0872-4
A central topic in experimental epistemology has been the ways that non-epistemic evaluations of an agent’s actions can affect whether the agent is taken to have certain kinds of knowledge. Several scholars (e.g., Beebe and Buckwalter Mind Lang 25:474–98; 2010; Beebe and Jensen Philosophical Psychology 25:689–715, 2012; Schaffer and Knobe Noûs 46:675–708, 2012; Beebe and Shea Episteme 10:219–40, 2013; Buckwalter Philosophical Psychology 27:368–83, 2014; Turri Ergo 1:101–127, 2014) have found that the positive or negative valence of an action can influence attributions of knowledge to the agent. These evaluative effects on knowledge attributions are commonly seen as performance errors, failing to reflect individuals’ genuine conceptual competence with knows. In the present article, I report the results of a series of studies designed to test the leading version of this view, which appeals to the allegedly distorting influence of individuals’ motivation to blame. I argue that the data pose significant challenges to such a view.