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7.3b.5. Folk Concepts and Folk Intuitions (Folk Concepts and Folk Intuitions on PhilPapers)

See also:
Adams, Frederick R. & Steadman (online). Folk concepts, surveys and intentional action.   (Google)
Abstract: In a recent paper, Al Mele (2003) suggests that the Simple View of intentional action is “fiction” because it is “wholly unconstrained” by a widely shared (folk) concept of intentional action. The Simple View (Adams, 1986, McCann, 1986) states that an action is intentional only if intended. As evidence that the Simple View is not in accord with the folk notion of intentional action, Mele appeals to recent surveys of folk judgments by Joshua Knobe (2003, 2004a, 2004b). Knobe’s surveys appear to show that the folk judge unintended but known side effects of actions to be performed intentionally. In this paper we will reject Mele’s suggestion that the Simple View is “fiction.” We will also discuss the relationship between surveys and philosophical theories, and the abilities of surveys to access folk core concepts. We will argue that considerations of both fail to support Mele’s suggestion
Bering, Jesse M. (2006). The folk psychology of souls. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 29 (5):453-+.   (Cited by 12 | Google | More links)
Abstract: The present article examines how people’s belief in an afterlife, as well as closely related supernatural beliefs, may open an empirical backdoor to our understanding of the evolution of human social cognition. Recent findings and logic from the cognitive sciences contribute to a novel theory of existential psychology, one that is grounded in the tenets of Darwinian natural selection. Many of the predominant questions of existential psychology strike at the heart of cognitive science. They involve: causal attribution (why is mortal behavior represented as being causally related to one’s afterlife? how are dead agents envisaged as communicating messages to the living?), moral judgment (why are certain social behaviors, i.e., transgressions, believed to have ultimate repercussions after death or to reap the punishment of disgruntled ancestors?), theory of mind (how can we know what it is “like” to be dead? what social-cognitive strategies do people use to reason about the minds of the dead?), concept acquisition (how does a common-sense dualism interact with a formalized socio-religious indoctrination in childhood? how are supernatural properties of the dead conceptualized by young minds?), and teleological reasoning (why do people so often see their lives as being designed for a purpose that must be accomplished before they perish? how do various life events affect people’s interpretation of this purpose?), among others. The central thesis of the present article is that an organized cognitive “system” dedicated to forming illusory representations of (1) psychological immortality, (2) the intelligent design of the self, and (3) the symbolic meaning of natural events evolved in response to the unique selective pressures of the human social environment
Feltz, Adam & Cokely, Edward (2007). An anomaly in intentional action ascription: More evidence of folk diversity. Proceedings of the Cognitive Science Society.   (Google)
Gonnerman, Chad (2008). Reading conflicted minds: An empirical follow-up to Knobe and roedder. Philosophical Psychology 21 (2):193 – 205.   (Google | More links)
Abstract: Recently Joshua Knobe and Erica Roedder found that folk attributions of valuing tend to vary according to the perceived moral goodness of the object of value. This is an interesting finding, but it remains unclear what, precisely, it means. Knobe and Roedder argue that it indicates that the concept MORAL GOODNESS is a feature of the concept VALUING. In this article, I present a study of folk attributions of desires and moral beliefs that undermines this conclusion. I then propose the beginnings of an alternative interpretation of the data that appeals to intrinsic biases in our third-person mindreading mechanisms
Jackman, Henry (2009). Semantic intuitions, conceptual analysis, and cross-cultural variation. Philosophical Studies 146 (2).   (Google | More links)
Abstract: While philosophers of language have traditionally relied upon their intuitions about cases when developing theories of reference, this methodology has recently been attacked on the grounds that intuitions about reference, far from being universal, show significant cultural variation, thus undermining their relevance for semantic theory. I’ll attempt to demonstrate that (1) such criticisms do not, in fact, undermine the traditional philosophical methodology, and (2) our underlying intuitions about the nature of reference may be more universal than the authors suppose
Jorgensen, Andrew Kenneth (2010). The sky over canberra: Folk discourse and serious metaphysics. Philosophia 38 (2).   (Google)
Abstract: I take up the task of examining how someone who takes seriously the ambitious programme of conceptual analysis advocated by the Canberra School can minimise the eliminative consequences which I argue the Ramsey-Carnap-Lewis recipe of conceptual analysis is likely to have for many folk discourses. The objective is to find a stable means to preserve the constative appearance of folk discourse and to find it generally successful in its attempts to describe an external world, albeit in non-scientific terms that do not reflect the nature of things. The view I settle on, quasi-fictionalism, is modelled on a modified descriptivist version of Kendall Walton’s account of prop-oriented games of make-believe
Knobe, Joshua; Malle, B. F. & Nelson, S. (2007). Actor-observer asymmetries in explanations of behavior: New answers to an old question. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 9 (4):491-514.   (Google)
Abstract: A long series of studies in social psychology have shown that the explanations people give for their own behaviors are fundamentally different from the explanations they give for the behaviors of others. Still, a great deal of uncertainty remains about precisely what sorts of differences one finds here. We offer a new approach to addressing the problem. Specifically, we distinguish between two levels of representation ─ the level of linguistic structure (which consists of the actual series of words used in the explanation) and the level of conceptual structure (which consists of the concepts these words are used to express). We then formulate and test hypotheses both about self-other differences in conceptual structure and about self-other differences in the mapping from conceptual structure to linguistic structure.
Morton, Adam (ms). But are they right? The prospects for empirical conceptology.   (Google)
Abstract: This is exciting stuff. Philosophers have long explored the structure of human concepts from the inside, by manipulating their skills as users of those concepts. And since Quine most reasonable philosophers have accepted that the structure is a contingent matter – we or not too different creatures could have thought differently – which in principle can be..
Knobe, Joshua & Burra, Arudra (2006). Experimental philosophy and folk concepts: Methodological considerations. Journal of Cognition and Culture 6 (1-2):331-342.   (Cited by 2 | Google)
Abstract: Experimental philosophy is a comparatively new field of research, and it is only natural that many of the key methodological questions have not even been asked, much less answered. In responding to the comments of our critics, we therefore find ourselves brushing up against difficult questions about the aims and techniques of our whole enterprise. We will do our best to address these issues here, but the field is progressing at a rapid clip, and we suspect that it will be possible to provide more adequate answers a few years down the line
Knobe, Joshua (ed.) (2007). Folk psychology: Science and morals. Springer.   (Google)
Abstract: It is widely agreed that folk psychology plays an important role in people’s moral judgments. For a simple example, take the process by which we determine whether or not an agent is morally blameworthy. Although the judgment here is ultimately a moral one, it seems that one needs to use a fair amount of folk psychology along the way. Thus, one might determine that an agent broke the vase intentionally and therefore conclude that she is blameworthy for breaking it. Here it seems that one starts out with a folkpsychological judgment (that the agent acted intentionally) and then uses it as input to a process that eventually yields a moral judgment (that the agent is blameworthy). Many other cases have a similar structure. In recent years, however, a number of studies have shown that there are also cases in which the arrow of causation goes in the opposite direction. That is, there appear to be cases in which people start out with a moral judgment and then use it as input to a process that eventually yields a folk-psychological judgment (Knobe 2003a, 2003b, 2004, 2005a, 2005b). These findings come as something of a surprise, and it can be difficult to know just what to make of them. My own view is that the findings are best explained by the hypothesis that moral considerations truly do play a role in people’s underlying folk-psychological concepts (Knobe 2003b, 2004, forthcoming). The key claim here is that the effects revealed in recent experiments are not the result of any kind of ‘bias’ or ‘distortion.’ Rather, moral considerations truly do figure in a fundamental way in the issues people are trying to resolve when they grapple with folk-psychological questions. I must confess, however, that not all researchers in the field share this view. Although many have been convinced that moral considerations actually do play a role in folk-psychological concepts, others have suggested that there might be better ways to account for the results of recent experiments..
Knobe, Joshua (2003). Intentional action and side effects in ordinary language. Analysis 63 (3):190–194.   (Google | More links)
Abstract: There has been a long-standing dispute in the philosophical literature about the conditions under which a behavior counts as 'intentional.' Much of the debate turns on questions about the use of certain words and phrases in ordinary language. The present paper investigates these questions empirically, using experimental techniques to investigate people's use of the relevant words and phrases. g
Knobe, Joshua (2003). Intentional action in folk psychology: An experimental investigation. Philosophical Psychology 16 (2):309-325.   (Cited by 42 | Google | More links)
Abstract: Four experiments examined people’s folk-psychological concept of intentional action. The chief question was whether or not _evaluative _considerations — considerations of good and bad, right and wrong, praise and blame — played any role in that concept. The results indicated that the moral qualities of a behavior strongly influence people’s judgements as to whether or not that behavior should be considered ‘intentional.’ After eliminating a number of alternative explanations, the author concludes that this effect is best explained by the hypothesis that evaluative considerations do play some role in people’s concept of intentional action.
Knobe, Joshua (2004). Intention, intentional action and moral considerations. Analysis 64 (2):181–187.   (Google | More links)
Knobe, Joshua (2006). The concept of intentional action: A case study in the uses of folk psychology. Philosophical Studies 130 (2):203-231.   (Cited by 15 | Google | More links)
Abstract: It is widely believed that the primary function of folk psychology lies in the prediction, explanation and control of behavior. A question arises, however, as to whether folk psychology has also been shaped in fundamental ways by the various other roles it plays in people’s lives. Here I approach that question by considering one particular aspect of folk psychology – the distinction between intentional and unintentional behaviors. The aim is to determine whether this distinction is best understood as a tool used in prediction, explanation and control or whether it has been shaped in fundamental ways by some other aspect of its use
Knobe, Joshua & Malle, Bertram (1997). The folk concept of intentionality. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 33:101-121.   (Google | More links)
Abstract: When perceiving, explaining, or criticizing human behavior, people distinguish between intentional and unintentional actions. To do so, they rely on a shared folk concept of intentionality. In contrast to past speculative models, this article provides an empirically-based model of this concept. Study 1 demonstrates that people agree substantially in their judgments of intentionality, suggesting a shared underlying concept. Study 2 reveals that when asked to directly define the term intentional, people mention four components of intentionality: desire, belief, intention, and awareness. Study 3 confirms the importance of a fifth component, namely, skill. In light of these findings, the authors propose a model of the folk concept of intentionality and provide a further test in Study 4. The discussion compares the proposed model to past ones and examines its implications for social perception, attribution, and cognitive development
Knobe, Joshua (2006). The folk concepts of intention and intentional action: A cross-cultural study. Journal of Cognition and Culture 6 (1-2):113-132.   (Cited by 4 | Google | More links)
Abstract: Recent studies point to a surprising divergence between people's use of the concept of _intention_ and their use of the concept of _acting intentionally_. It seems that people's application of the concept of intention is determined by their beliefs about the agent's psychological states whereas their use of the concept of acting intentionally is determined at least in part by their beliefs about the moral status of the behavior itself (i.e., by their beliefs about whether the behavior is morally good or morally bad). These findings raise a number of difficult questions about the relationship between the concept of intention and the concept of acting intentionally. The present paper addresses those questions using a variety of different methods, including conceptual analysis, psychological experimentation, and an examination of people's use of certain expressions in other languages
Knobe, Joshua & Mendlow, Gabriel (2004). The good, the bad and the blameworthy: Understanding the role of evaluative reasoning in folk psychology. Journal of Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology 24:252-258.   (Cited by 14 | Google)
Abstract: People ordinarily make sense of their own behavior and that of others by invoking concepts like belief, desire, and intention. Philosophers refer to this network of concepts and related principles as 'folk psychology.' The prevailing view of folk psychology among philosophers of mind and psychologists is that it is a proto-scientific theory whose function is to explain and predict behavior
Korman, Daniel Z. (2009). Eliminativism and the challenge from folk belief. Noûs 43 (2):242-264.   (Google)
Korman, Daniel Z. (2008). Review of Terence E. Horgan, matjaž potrč, Austere Realism: Contextual Semantics Meets Minimal Ontology. Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 2008 (10).   (Google)
Abstract: You could say that Horgan and Potrč aren't big on commitment. As they would have it, an ordinary utterance of 'there is a brown chair in the corner' is strictly and literally true, and yet there are no such things as chairs or corners, nor is there any such thing as being brown. Their project in Austere Realism is to supply a semantic framework in which this and other such sentences of ordinary discourse (as well as scientific discourse) are unambiguously true, despite the fact that the sorts of items that would ordinarily be taken to answer to their quantifiers, referring expressions, and predicates do not exist. The conciliatory strategy that they develop is designed to be compatible with a variety of different austere ontologies, though they ultimately come down in favor of a monist ontology on which there exists exactly one concrete particular: "the blobject," that is, the whole cosmos. Although I cannot hope to do justice to all of the intricacies of their ontological-cum-semantic theory in this review, I will do my best to touch on all of the main themes of the book, and I will try to indicate why I was not persuaded.
Machery, Eduoard; Mallon, R. & Stich, S. (web). Against arguments from reference. In D. Chalmers, D. Manley & R. Wasserman (eds.), Metametaphysics. Oxford University Press.   (Google)
Abstract: in D. Chalmers, D. Manley and R. Wasserman (eds.), Metametaphysics, Oxford University Press
Machery, Edouard (2006). The folk concept of intentional action: Philosophical and experimental issues. Mind and Language 23 (2):165–189.   (Cited by 5 | Google | More links)
Abstract: ? Thanks for helpful comments to Gregory Currie, Josh Knobe, Ron Mallon, Thomas Nadelhoffer, Shaun Nichols, Steve Stich, Liane Young, the readers of the blog Experimental Philosophy ( as well as two anonymous reviewers. Thanks also to my research assistant on this project, Julie Sokolow, for her help and her comments
Machery, Eduoard & Livengood, J. (2007). The folk probably don't think what you think they think: Experiments on causation by absence. Midwest Studies in Philosophy 31 (1):107-127.   (Google)
Abstract: Folk theories—untutored people’s (often implicit) theories about various features of the world—have been fashionable objects of inquiry in psychology for almost two decades now (e.g., Hirschfeld and Gelman 1994), and more recently they have been of interest in experimental philosophy (Nichols 2004). Folk theories of psy- chology, physics, biology, and ethics have all come under investigation. Folk meta- physics, however, has not been as extensively studied. That so little is known about folk metaphysics is unfortunate for (at least) two reasons. First, folk metaphysics is almost certainly implicit, and it is likely to be our default way of thinking about metaphysical problems. Moreover, one’s metaphysical commitments can have pro- found consequences—in scientific, religious, and ethical contexts, for example. Thus, folk metaphysics ought to be dragged out into the open and exposed to criticism. As Peirce eloquently remarked (1994, 1.129; see also 1994, 7.579)
Malle, Bertram F. (2006). Of windmills and straw men: Folk assumptions of mind and action. In Susan Pockett, William P. Banks & Shaun Gallagher (eds.), Does Consciousness Cause Behavior? MIT Press.   (Google)
Malle, Bertram F. (2006). The relation between judgments of intentionality and morality. Journal of Cognition and Culture 6:61-86.   (Cited by 5 | Google)
Meeks, Roblin R. (2004). Unintentionally biasing the data: Reply to Knobe. Journal of Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology 24:220-223.   (Cited by 4 | Google)
Abstract: Knobe (2003) wants to help adjudicate the philosophical debate concerning whether and under what conditions we normally judge that some side effect x was brought about intentionally. His proposal for doing so is perhaps an obvious one—simply elicit the intuitions of “The Folk” directly on the matter and record the results. His findings were a bit less obvious, however. When Knobe presented New York parkgoers with scenarios including either good or bad side effects, they tended to judge that the bad side effect was brought about intentionally and that the good side effect was not. In light of these responses, Knobe concludes that
[p]eople’s judgments depend in a crucial way on what x happens to be. In
particular, it makes a great deal of difference whether they think that x is
something good or something bad. (2003: 191)
He further explains this conclusion in terms of an underlying normative asymmetry, for according to Knobe the data suggests that “people are considerably more willing to blame the agent for bad side effects than to praise the agent for good side effects” (2003: 193). Hence, people’s judgment that a side effect was brought about intentionally apparently rests, at least in part, upon how blameworthy they find the agent responsible for it
Mele, Alfred R. (2003). Intentional action: Controversies, data, and core hypotheses. Philosophical Psychology 16 (2):325-340.   (Cited by 66 | Google | More links)
Abstract: This article reviews some recent empirical work on lay judgments about what agents do intentionally and what they intend in various stories and explores its bearing on the philosophical project of providing a conceptual analysis of intentional action. The article is a case study of the potential bearing of empirical studies of a variety of folk concepts on philosophical efforts to analyze those concepts and vice versa. Topics examined include double effect; the influence of moral considerations on judgments about what is done intentionally and about what is intended; the influence of considerations of luck, skill, and causal deviance on judgments about what agents do intentionally; what interesting properties all cases of intentional action might share; and the debate between proponents of, respectively, "the Simple View" of the connection between intentional action and intention and "the Single Phenomenon View" of that connection. A substantial body of literature is devoted to the project of analyzing intentional action [1] . In this article, I explore the bearing on that project of some recent empirical work on lay judgments about what is done intentionally and about what is intended. This article may reasonably be regarded as a case study of the potential bearing of empirical studies of a range of folk concepts on philosophical efforts to analyze those concepts and, likewise, of the potential bearing of attempted philosophical analyses of folk concepts on empirical studies of those concepts
Nadelhoffer, Thomas (2006). Desire, foresight, intentions, and intentional actions: Probing folk intuitions. Journal of Cognition and Culture.   (Cited by 3 | Google | More links)
Abstract: A number of philosophers working under the rubric of “experimental philosophy” have recently begun focusing on analyzing the concepts of ordinary language and investigating the intuitions of laypersons in an empirically informed way.1 In a series of papers these philosophers—who often work in collaboration with psychologists—have presented the results of empirical studies aimed at proving folk intuitions in areas as diverse as ethics, epistemology, free will, and the philosophy of action. In this paper, I contribute to this research program by discussing the results of some new experiments that further probe folk intuitions about the relationship between desire, foresight, intent, intentional action, and moral considerations
Nadelhoffer, Thomas (2004). On praise, side effects, and folk ascriptions of intentionality. Journal of Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology 24:196-213.   (Cited by 16 | Google | More links)
Abstract: In everyday discourse, we often draw a distinction between actions that are performed intentionally (e.g. opening your car door) and those that are performed unintentionally (e.g. shutting a car door on your finger). This distinction has interested philosophers working in a number of different areas. Indeed, intentional actions are not only the primary focus of those concerned with understanding and explaining human behavior, but they often occupy center stage in philosophical discussions of free will and moral and legal responsibility as well. And while most philosophers agree that the distinction between intentional and unintentional action plays an important role in our folk psychology, there is still wide-scale disagreement about the precise nature of this role. Until recently, there has been a lack of empirical data about the folk concept of intentional action and as a result the debate among philosophers has been mostly
Nadelhoffer, Thomas (2006). On trying to save the simple view. Mind and Language 21 (5):565-586.   (Cited by 4 | Google | More links)
Abstract: According to the analysis of intentional action that Michael Bratman has dubbed the 'Simple View', intending to x is necessary for intentionally x-ing. Despite the plausibility of this view, there is gathering empirical evidence that when people are presented with cases involving moral considerations, they are much more likely to judge that the action (or side effect) in question was brought about intentionally than they are to judge that the agent intended to do it. This suggests that at least as far as the ordinary concept of intentional action is concerned, an agent need not intend to x in order to x intentionally
Ohreen, David E. (2006). The origins of folk psychological concepts. Facta Philosophica 8 (1/2):41-51.   (Google)
Phelan, Mark & Sarkissian, Hagop (2009). Is the 'trade-off hypothesis' worth trading for? Mind and Language 24 (2):164-180.   (Google)
Abstract: Abstract: Recently, the experimental philosopher Joshua Knobe has shown that the folk are more inclined to describe side effects as intentional actions when they bring about bad results. Edouard Machery has offered an intriguing new explanation of Knobe's work—the 'trade-off hypothesis'—which denies that moral considerations explain folk applications of the concept of intentional action. We critique Machery's hypothesis and offer empirical evidence against it. We also evaluate the current state of the debate concerning the concept of intentionality, and argue that, given the number of variables at play, any parsimonious account of the relevant data is implausible
Phelan, Mark T. & Sarkissian, Hagop (2008). The folk strike back; or, why you didn't do it intentionally, though it was bad and you knew it. Philosophical Studies 138 (2).   (Cited by 7 | Google | More links)
Abstract: Recent and puzzling experimental results suggest that people’s judgments as to whether or not an action was performed intentionally are sensitive to moral considerations. In this paper, we outline these results and evaluate two accounts which purport to explain them. We then describe a recent experiment that allegedly vindicates one of these accounts and present our own findings to show that it fails to do so. Finally, we present additional data suggesting no such vindication could be in the offing and that, in fact, both accounts fail to explain the initial, puzzling results they were purported to explain
Phillips, Jonathan & Knobe, Joshua (2009). Moral judgments and intuitions about freedom. Psychological Inquiry 20 (1):30-36.   (Google)
Abstract: Reeder’s article offers a new and intriguing approach to the study of people’s ordinary understanding of freedom and constraint. On this approach, people use information about freedom and constraint as part of a quasi-scientific effort to make accurate inferences about an agent’s motives. Their beliefs about the agent’s motives then affect a wide variety of further psychological processes, including the process whereby they arrive at moral judgments. In illustrating this new approach, Reeder cites an elegant study he conducted a number of years ago (Reeder & Spores, 1983). All subjects were given a vignette about a man who goes with his date to a pizza parlor and happens to come across a box that has been designated for charitable donations. In one condition, the man’s date then requests that he make a donation; in the other, she requests that he steal the money that is already in the box. In both conditions, the man chooses to comply with this request. The key question is how subjects will use his behavior to make inferences about whether he is a morally good or morally bad person. The results revealed a marked difference between conditions. When the man donated to charity, subjects were generally disinclined to conclude that he must have been a morally good person. It is as though they were thinking: ‘He didn’t just do this out of the goodness of his heart
Sverdlik, Steven (2004). Intentionality and moral judgments in commonsense thought about action. Journal of Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology 24:224-236.   (Cited by 7 | Google)
Abstract: The concept of intentional action occupies a central place in commonsense or folk psychological thought. Philosophers of action, psychologists and moral philosophers all have taken an interest in understanding this important concept. One issue that has been discussed by philosophers is whether the concept of intentional action is purely ‘naturalistic’, that is, whether it is entirely a descriptive concept that can be used to explain and predict behavior. (Of course, judgments using such a concept could be used to support moral or evaluative judgments about responsibility, praise and blame.) A related question is whether speakers’ views about moral and evaluative issues at least affect their judgments about intentionality, even if their explicit concept of intentional action is not itself evaluative
Turner, Jason & Nahmias, Eddy A. (2006). Are the folk agent-causationists? Mind and Language 21 (5):597-609.   (Cited by 5 | Google | More links)
Abstract: Experimental examination of how the folk conceptualize certain philosophically loaded notions can provide information useful for philosophical theorizing. In this paper, we explore issues raised in Shaun Nichols' (2004) studies involving people's conception of free will, focusing on his claim that this conception fits best with the philosophical theory of agent-causation. We argue that his data do not support this conclusion, highlighting along the way certain considerations that ought to be taken into account when probing the folk conception of free will
Turner, Jason (2004). Folk intuitions, asymmetry, and intentional side effects. Journal of Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology 24:214-219.   (Cited by 6 | Google)
Abstract: An agent _S_ wants to _A_ and knows that if she _A_-s she will also bring about _B_. _S_ does not care at all about _B_. _S_ then _A_-s, also bringing about _B_. Did she _intentionally_ bring _B_ about?
Wright, Jennifer & Bengson, John (online). Asymmetries in judgments of responsibility and intentional action.   (Cited by 2 | Google)