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The Monist

Volume 95, Issue 2, April 2012

Experimental Philosophy

Mark Alfano, James R. Beebe, Brian Robinson
Pages 264-289
DOI: 10.5840/monist201295215

The Centrality of Belief and Reflection in Knobe-Effect Cases
A Unified Account of the Data

Recent work in experimental philosophy has shown that people are more likely to attribute intentionality, knowledge, and other psychological properties to someone who causes a bad side effect than to someone who causes a good one. We argue that all of these asymmetries can be explained in terms of a single underlying asymmetry involving belief attribution because the belief that one’s action would result in a certain side effect is a necessary component of each of the psychological attitudes in question. We argue further that this belief-attribution asymmetry is rational because it mirrors a belief-formation asymmetry, and that the belief-formation asymmetry is also rational because it is more useful to form some beliefs than others.