Folk Knowledge Attributions and the Protagonist Projection Hypothesis

In Tania Lombrozo, Joshua Knobe & Shaun Nichols (eds.), Oxford Studies in Experimental Philosophy, vol 4. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 5-29 (2021)
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A growing body of empirical evidence suggests that folk knowledge attribution practices regarding some epistemological thought experiments differ significantly from the consensus found in the philosophical literature. More specifically, laypersons are likely to ascribe knowledge in the so-called Authentic Evidence Gettier-style cases, while most philosophers deny knowledge in these cases. The intuitions shared by philosophers are often used as evidence in favor (or against) certain philosophical analyses of the notion of knowledge. However, the fact that these intuitions are not universal, as non-philosophers do not sympathize with verdicts made by philosophers, is problematic and requires some explanation. Recently, a promising theoretical approach emerged that could be used to explain away unexpected folk knowledge attributions. According to the protagonist projection hypothesis, when subjects answer questions about some hypothetical scenario, their judgments might result from adopting the cognitive perspective of the protagonist in the given scenario. Previous experimental findings suggest protagonist projection might be responsible for problematic knowledge attributions in Gettier-style cases. This paper reports data collected in an experiment which focused on five different Authentic Evidence Gettier-style scenarios and investigated the impact of protagonist projection on folk knowledge ascriptions in such cases. The results bring some support to the protagonist projection hypothesis, but do not allow to explain away a substantial number of problematic folk knowledge attributions.

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Adrian Ziółkowski
University of Warsaw


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