I wanted to draw your attention to our new manuscript that reports on a study of Joshua Knobe's famous 'Chairman case'. I conducted the study with my colleague Sara Konrath, and we used a method called structural path analysis to uncover some pretty surprising things about people's intuitions in the Chairman case. In short, we argue that normative factors do not drive asymmetric intuitions in the case, though people think they do. The methods used in the study are relatively new in X-Phi, and we hope that people will be receptive to our approach. We would absolutely love comments and criticisms.
The paper is here. And here is the abstract reprinted below.
Recently, a number of philosophers have advanced a surprising conclusion – people’s judgments about whether an agent brought about an outcome intentionally are pervasively influenced by normative considerations. In this paper, we investigate the ‘Chairman case’, an influential case from this literature and disagree with this conclusion. Using a statistical method called structural path modeling, we show that people’s attributions of intentional action to an agent are driven not by normative assessments, but rather by attributions of underlying values and characterological dispositions to the agent. In a second study, we examined people’s judgments about what they think drives asymmetric intuitions in the Chairman case and found that people are highly inaccurate in identifying which features of the case their intuitions track. In the final part of the paper, we discuss how the statistical methods used in this study can help philosophers with the tracking problem, the problem of figuring out which features of hypothetical cases our intuitions are responsive to. We show how the methods used in this study have some advantages over both armchair methods used by traditional philosophers and survey methods used by experimental philosophers.