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Person as scientist, person as moralist

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 October 2010

Joshua Knobe
Program in Cognitive Science and Department of Philosophy, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06520-8306joshua.knobe@yale.edu


It has often been suggested that people's ordinary capacities for understanding the world make use of much the same methods one might find in a formal scientific investigation. A series of recent experimental results offer a challenge to this widely-held view, suggesting that people's moral judgments can actually influence the intuitions they hold both in folk psychology and in causal cognition. The present target article distinguishes two basic approaches to explaining such effects. One approach would be to say that the relevant competencies are entirely non-moral but that some additional factor (conversational pragmatics, performance error, etc.) then interferes and allows people's moral judgments to affect their intuitions. Another approach would be to say that moral considerations truly do figure in workings of the competencies themselves. I argue that the data available now favor the second of these approaches over the first.

Target Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2010

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