Knowledge attributions in iterated fake barn cases

Analysis 77 (1):104-115 (2017)
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Abstract

In a single-iteration fake barn case, the agent correctly identifies an object of interest on the first try, despite the presence of nearby lookalikes that could have mislead her. In a multiple-iteration fake barn case, the agent first encounters several fakes, misidentifies each of them, and then encounters and correctly identifies a genuine item of interest. Prior work has established that people tend to attribute knowledge in single-iteration fake barn cases, but multiple-iteration cases have not been tested. However, some theorists contend that multiple-iteration cases are more important and will elicit a strong tendency to deny knowledge. Here I report a behavioural experiment investigating knowledge judgments in multiple-iteration fake barn cases. The main finding is that people tend to attribute knowledge in these cases too. Ironically, the results indicate that the presence of fakes could prevent iterated errors from lowering knowledge attributions. The results also provide evidence that ordinary knowledge attributions are based on attributions of cognitive ability.

Author's Profile

John Turri
University of Waterloo

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