• invizzy
    147
    Experimental philosophy (X-Phi) is a sub-field of philosophy where experimental data about philosophy is collected. This is usually in the form of surveys to test folk intuition about philosophical concepts.
    One of the most famous results came from from Joshua Knobe in 2003. He found information that suggested intuitions about whether outcomes are intentional are based on how moral we see them.

    The evidence that Knobe found was based on surveys about the following scenarios:

    Harm:
    “The vice-president of a company went to the chairman of the board and said, ‘We are thinking of starting a new program. It will help us increase profits, but it will also harm the environment.’
    The chairman of the board answered, ‘I don’t care at all about harming the environment. I just want to make as much profit as I can. Let’s start the new program.’
    They started the new program. Sure enough, the environment was harmed.”

    Help:
    “The vice-president of a company went to the chairman of the board and said, ‘We are thinking of starting a new program. It will help us increase profits, and it will also help the environment.’
    The chairman of the board answered, ‘I don’t care at all about helping the environment. I just want to make as much profit as I can. Let’s start the new program.’
    They started the new program. Sure enough, the environment was helped.”

    When everyday people were surveyed - and I believe these results have been replicated - people who are given the ‘Harm’ scenario say the CEO were, and by a large majority, more likely to think to bring about the side effect intentionally. On the flip side, people given the ‘Help’ scenario were very likely to think the CEO brought about that scenario unintentionally.

    There is currently no general consensus as for why this is, but the tendency is to frame it as a difference between morality of the two scenarios. What do you think?
  • unenlightened
    7.1k
    Ever since Machiavelli, the morality of the rich and powerful has been completely different to that of the folk. We do not judge them by our own standards. We excuse the harm because it is not part of his duty, and we praise the help for the same reason. We might judge the minister for the environment differently, and even possibly excuse him if he harmed the economy.
  • invizzy
    147


    Oh I haven’t looked into other versions of the Knobe effect but I suspect they’re not limited to CEOs and people in power. But perhaps you’re onto something?
  • unenlightened
    7.1k
    I don't think it's completely a matter of class, but also, and perhaps more so, of occupation. If a life-guard fails to save a drowning man, we tend to condemn, whereas if he built a wall in his spare time and it collapses and kills someone, we might forgive. But with a bricklayer, it would be the other way round.

    "A cobbler should stick to his last."

    That is to say, the experiment may be being misinterpreted: not 'intuitions about whether outcomes are intentional are based on how moral we see them', but intuitions about whether outcomes are intentional are based on whether or not they are part of the job-description.

    That is Machiavelli's position, that the ruler should not be squeamish about breaking a few eggs in the course of making the omelette of the state; that to be a weak ruler is the worst sin for a ruler. Thus to fail to make a profit is the worst sin for a CEO; everything else is 'justified' if it facilitates the goal of the occupation.
  • T Clark
    10.3k
    Experimental philosophy (X-Phi) is a sub-field of philosophy where experimental data about philosophy is collected. This is usually in the form of surveys to test folk intuition about philosophical concepts.invizzy

    What you describe is not experimental philosophy, it is science - psychology or maybe sociology. I think when science broke off from philosophy, it took all the empirical stuff with it. Maybe not, but I can't think of anything that would qualify.
  • mcdoodle
    1k
    I think you will find that philosophers have decided it *is* philosophy in the past couple of decades. Nice Mr Knobe is actually the co-author of the Stanford entry on the subject. The idea has the merit that instead of relying on the intuitions of the Oxford chap puffing on their pipe in their study, we might find out the intuitions of a representative sample of the general populace. Of course such inquiries often get bogged down in debates about methodology rather than objective, but it seems worth a try.
  • T Clark
    10.3k
    I think you will find that philosophers have decided it *is* philosophy in the past couple of decades.mcdoodle

    And I've decided that it isn't. Not that it matters what they or I have decided.
  • Cuthbert
    1k
    It seems a reasonable challenge to any philosophical claim that appeals to intuition about concepts. Whose intuition? And how to decide between conflicting intuitions?

    One problem is that in experiments the number of variables needs to be limited. This may constrain an experiment in ways that make it less than useful. Knobe's is an example. The CEO's acted intentionally or unintentionally. Those were the options offered. But in describing these situations there are many other concepts people might invoke. Were the CEOs' various actions - deliberate, incidental, accidental, done on purpose, reckless, meant to be done, done with such and such an aim, for example? There are subtle differences between all these concepts. My answer might be: "He knew he was going to harm the environment but that wasn't his aim - I would say it was done recklessly, because he didn't care whether or not he harmed the environment - I would say the harm was incidental to his purpose, but it definitely wasn't an accident because he knew it would happen - so I wouldn't say it was intentional or unintentional, those ideas don't really capture the nature of what he did - I would say, well, just what I said." Then how would my answer be categorised in the results? The experiment may show merely that if you give people a range of options in a questionnaire then those will tend to be the options between which they choose. It shows that many people are compliant when completing questionnaires that they have volunteered to complete. That is in itself an interesting finding but it tells us little about intuitions.
  • invizzy
    147


    This is an intriguing position. I would have thought it really does matter what philosophers have decided in the last few decades. Especially ABOUT philosophy. And especially to people in a philosophy forum.

    Can you explain why it wouldn’t?
  • invizzy
    147


    Just trying to find examples of people not in power still giving rise to the Knobe effect. This paper gives a pretty good run down of some newer surveys.
    This one is interesting:

    https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11229-022-03917-2

    “ACME Inc. started a new program. When launching the new program, data suggested that the program would help ACME Inc. increase profits, but that it would also [harm/help] the environment. In line with ACME Inc.’s business policies and in the interest of maximizing profits, the new program was implemented. Sure enough, the environment was [harmed/helped].”

    This apparently has similar results to the original. They weren’t sure whether intentionality was seen as ‘distributive’ though in such a case i.e. that the intentions were distributed throughout members of ACME, presumably disproportionately to those in power. Anyway it looks like they go on to adjust for that and still find that non-distributive intentionality is suggested but they need further data.

    In short, it seems groups can be seen as more intentional based on morals too, rather than just CEOs and generals, well morals or maybe just the words ‘harm’ and ‘help’ for other reasons.
  • Olivier5
    6k
    I would think that these decisions are subjective and personal, not factual or normative. Your decision of what you consider philosophy does not concern me, my decision making process being different and independent from yours.
  • invizzy
    147

    I would think that these decisions are subjective and personal, not factual or normative.Olivier5

    I guess our intuitions just differ there! :)
  • unenlightened
    7.1k
    In short, it seems groups can be seen as more intentional based on morals too, rather than just CEOs and generals, well morals or maybe just the words ‘harm’ and ‘help’ for other reasons.invizzy

    We inflict collateral damage, which is an unfortunate and unintended consequence of our military humanitarian efforts. They murder innocent civilians.

    Try the experiment with Green-piece org instead of ACME Inc. We all know that companies conduct business for profit and there is usually an environmental cost. But if a group has the improvement of the environment as its aim, one has to presume that the environmental effect is deliberate, and it is the profit or loss that is likely unintentional.
  • Olivier5
    6k
    I would think that these decisions are subjective and personal, not factual or normative.
    — Olivier5

    I guess our intuitions just differ there! :)
    invizzy

    Thus proving my point that my philosophical decisions may differ from yours. :-)
  • invizzy
    147


    I reckon if you used the phrase 'harmed profits' to refer to the side-effects of Greenpeace's actions it would be seen as likely intentional, but 'helped profits' it would likely be seen as unintentional. I suspect you disagree?
  • T Clark
    10.3k
    This is an intriguing position. I would have thought it really does matter what philosophers have decided in the last few decades. Especially ABOUT philosophy. And especially to people in a philosophy forum.invizzy

    Philosophers can't agree on anything, especially about philosophy and especially those of us on the forum. I doubt you'll find many philosophers today who think x-phi is worthwhile. Maybe I'm wrong about that.
  • invizzy
    147


    Oh my mistake, I thought the disagreement was about whether it was philosophy or not, not whether it was worthwhile. I know no sane philosopher who claims experimental philosophy is not philosophy.
  • L'éléphant
    883
    When everyday people were surveyed - and I believe these results have been replicated - people who are given the ‘Harm’ scenario say the CEO were, and by a large majority, more likely to think to bring about the side effect intentionally. On the flip side, people given the ‘Help’ scenario were very likely to think the CEO brought about that scenario unintentionally.

    There is currently no general consensus as for why this is, but the tendency is to frame it as a difference between morality of the two scenarios. What do you think?
    invizzy
    I couldn't think of any other reason for this syndrome than the idea that those surveyed, or I guess those that represent us all, thought that "making profit" just don't mesh with the environment -- the default thinking is that people are immoral.

    If people's self-interest harms the environment, it's because people are by default immoral. If people's self-interest helps the environment, it's only by accident that the environment benefits, because people are by default immoral.
  • bert1
    1.2k
    What Cuthbert said.
  • unenlightened
    7.1k
    I tend to disagree. But my point is that there is a natural understanding of intent relating to deliberate acts and unintended but perhaps foreseeable consequences that only applies when the primary goal is presumed. So the folk intuition could be to give the benefit of the doubt - presumed intent when the secondary consequence is positive and vice versa. The facts so far support my hypothesis as well as Knobe's, but the environmental org experiment might distinguish them.

    Because intentionally harming the environment would be daft unless it was unavoidable given the main intent, and likewise making a loss.

    There is an ambiguity in the meaning of intent: I intentionally break eggs in order to make an omelette, but my intention is to make an omelette, not to break eggs. Oil companies do not intend to cause global warming, merely to sell product, but now we know that they know that they are causing it, and I at least, am starting to think them culpable because reckless.
  • T Clark
    10.3k
    I know no sane philosopher who claims experimental philosophy is not philosophy.invizzy

    So, someone would have to be insane to think experimental philosophy is not really philosophy? This from the SEP:

    Finally, it might be objected that experimental philosophy simply isn’t philosophy at all. On this view, there are certain properties that differentiate work in philosophy from work in other disciplines. Research in experimental philosophy lacks these properties and is therefore best understood as falling outside the philosophical tradition entirely. Note that this last objection is not concerned with the question as to whether experimental philosophy has any value but rather with the question as to whether it should be considered part of a particular discipline. As one recent paper puts it,

    … what is at issue is not whether there is room for such empirical study, but whether there is room for it now as a branch of philosophy. (Sorell forthcoming: 6)
    Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

    I don't provide this as evidence that X-phi isn't philosophy, only that there are sane philosophers who claim experimental philosophy is not philosophy.
  • jgill
    2.6k
    What you describe is not experimental philosophy, it is science - psychology or maybe sociology. I think when science broke off from philosophy, it took all the empirical stuff with itT Clark

    :100: :party: :clap:
  • invizzy
    147


    Thanks for finding that quote. I am clearly wrong, apologies for my misleading earlier statement!
  • T Clark
    10.3k
    I am clearly wronginvizzy

    Hey!! No fair. When you're gracious, I don't get to feel all smug.
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