Normativity in Action: How to Explain the Knobe Effect and its Relatives

Mind and Language 29 (1):51-72 (2014)
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Abstract

Intuitions about intentional action have turned out to be sensitive to normative factors: most people say that an indifferent agent brings about an effect of her action intentionally when it is harmful, but unintentionally when it is beneficial. Joshua Knobe explains this asymmetry, which is known as ‘the Knobe effect’, in terms of the moral valence of the effect, arguing that this explanation generalizes to other asymmetries concerning notions as diverse as deciding and being free. I present an alternative explanation of the Knobe effect in terms of normative reasons. This explanation generalizes to other folk psychological notions such as deciding, but not to such notions as being free. I go on to argue, against Knobe, that offering a unified explanation of all the asymmetries he discusses is in fact undesirable

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Frank Hindriks
University of Groningen

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