Off topic: On experimental philosophy, intentionality - courtesy of MIND HACKS
Thread poster: Vito Smolej

Vito Smolej
Germany
Local time: 23:42
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Feb 26, 2009

Philosophers used to combine conceptual reflections with practical experiment. The trendiest new branch of the discipline, known as x-phi, wants to return to those days. Some philosophers don’t like it

...His work on intention soon attracted attention. Take one of his cases. A company chairman is told a new project will increase profits but harm the environment. He says, “I don’t care about harming the environment. Let’s start the new project. I just want to make as much profit as possible.” Meanwhile another company chairman is faced with a similar choice, except this time it will help the environment. He says, “I don’t care about helping the environment. Let’s start the project. I want to make as much profit as possible.” When asked whether the chairman intentionally harmed the environment in the first scenario, most people say “yes.” But did the chairman intentionally help the environment in the second scenario? Most people think not. This is weird. It led Knobe to conclude that people’s moral judgements play a role in their concept of intentional action...

http://www.prospect-magazine.co.uk/article_details.php?id=10638

Regards

Vito


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Spencer Allman
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:42
Finnish to English
Wrong in the first scenario Feb 27, 2009

I think that the people who were surveyed regarding the first scenario are wrong. Not caring about the environment is not the same as intending to harm it.

I think 'not to care' is a sound, but often unconsidered, pholosophical angle.

hence:

I believe in God (a person of faith)

I don't believe in God (an atheist)

I don't know (an agnostic)

I don't care (??)

best

spencer


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Vito Smolej
Germany
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from my PoV no intention at all to judge who's right or wrong Feb 27, 2009

Spencer Allman wrote:

I think that the people who were surveyed regarding the first scenario are wrong. Not caring about the environment is not the same as intending to harm it.



The fact alone, there's asymmetry, is good enough for me as food for thought. Why asymmetry at all for instance? Social evolutionary path of human race?


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chica nueva
Local time: 10:42
Chinese to English
Environmental side-effects and 'bad' managers. Feb 28, 2009

1 Risk and disbenefits: Managers these days are expected to evaluate social risks - they have obligations to stakeholders other than shareholders. Failure to act on advice could lead to accusations of recklessness and 'deliberate' harm later on further down the track.

2 Character: Furthermore, both managers are of identical 'bad' character. They are caricatures. It's not surprising that the environmental harm caused is 'deliberate', and the good caused is 'accidental'. You'd expect that, wouldn't you.

[I found a couple of articles which might be of interest:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Experimental_philosophy

On folk-morality and establishing 'intent':
http://www.nacdl.org/public.nsf/698c98dd101a846085256eb400500c01/c2a94d8d0c83a3e28525738e005fafe3?OpenDocument
Is That What I Meant: Litigating Intent in White Collar Crime ]

[Edited at 2009-02-28 11:59 GMT]


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Livia Formisani  Identity Verified
Italy
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Thank you!! Mar 1, 2009

Now I don't have any time but I will write soon about this!!
Something like that was in my master's dissertation too! Thanks!


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Livia Formisani  Identity Verified
Italy
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The opinion and experience of an insider, if you let me Mar 5, 2009

The problem when it comes to analize experience is far much bigger than it looks like, and let me just introduce this point, which all the philosophers have to deal with when studying Epistemology, through a very representative quote from Karl Popper:

“The controversial question whether philosophy exists, or has any right to exist, is almost as old as philosophy itself. Time and again an entirely new philosophical movement arises which finally unmasks the old philosophical problems as pseudo-problems, and which confronts the wicked nonsense of philosophy with the good sense of meaningful, positive, empirical, science. And time and again do the despised defenders of ‘traditional philosophy’ try to explain to the leaders of the latest positivistic assault that the main problem of philosophy is the critical analysis of the appeal to the authority of experience — precisely that ‘experience’ which every latest discoverer of positivism is, as ever, artlessly taking for granted. To such objections, however, the positivist only replies with a shrug : they mean nothing to him, since they do not belong to empirical science, which alone is meaningful. ‘Experience’ for him is a programme, not a problem."
Karl R. Popper, The logic of scientific discovery (Logik der Forschung, 1934)

This said, let me go a bit further: we should be aware that every experimental evidence can be interpreted as supporting various points of view, so it cannot constitute "a final trial" or evidence against some theories. As pointed out in the same article, when it comes to interprete MRI results, we cannot explicitly prove that the activation of one area of the brain means something specifically, since we know little about the exact functioning of the brain. As for the other experiments, there are a lot of other factors which could influence one answer or the other.

This all said, I think that experimental philosophy (but I am not referring to a movement in particular: there are several) is a path which HAS to be followed, above all because with on-the-field enquiries we can come up with new ideas and solutions to our questions, or with brand new questions. I will not discuss about moral issues as the chairman's problem, which interpretation is really tricky and for sure not my field of specialization; but let me resume an experiment from my MA thesis, which I think it's really nice.

The field is experimental pragmatics, the point at issue is the relevance of communication. According to Sperber and Wilson's theory (The Relevance Theory), speakers in a conversation tend to maximize relevance, to be more "useful" and "cooperative" to/with the other.
So a group of philosophers designed this experiment to test the theory.

A man asked the time to several people, noting each type the kind of watch the person had. It came out that the majority of people tended to round the result to the closer multiple of 5, even if they had a digital watch (which "result" requires more effort to round, due to the fact that the person could just read the hour right away, while in the analogic watch case the person just needs to watch to the closer multiple of 5).

The experiment was repeated in a different context. This time the man said: "Hello! My watch isn't working properly. Do you have the time please?" faking to be busy in re-setting the watch. In this case, everybody was telling the exact hour, even the people with an analogic watch, for whose the operation required a bigger effort than just round it to the closer multiple.

Relevance! Said the theorist. Normality/nothing special, said the man on the street. This is experimental philosophy.

References:
The experiment is described in Sperber, D. & Noveck, I. "Experimental Pragmatics", Palgrave Macmillan 2004, pp. 165-169.

Let me suggest a book, if you didn't already read it: O. Sacks (1985), The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, for whose interested in brain functioning.

P.S.= I left out intentionally the intentionality question (sic!), which is a really hard topic and which would have lead me much much far.

[Edited at 2009-03-05 11:56 GMT]


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Vito Smolej
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My two cents Mar 5, 2009


The problem when it comes to analize experience is far much bigger than it looks like, and let me just introduce this point, which all the philosophers have to deal with when studying Epistemology, through a very representative quote from Karl Popper:...

did not know about this aspect of Popper's work - I had him pidgeonholed somewhere with Schumacher and other Austrian economists (which probably shows the extent of my ignorance)

The experiment was repeated in a different context. This time the man said: "Hello! My watch isn't working properly. Do you have the time please?"

My reaction: "what else would you expect?" due to my scientific background - seeing two measurement machines under two rather different conditions. But then, physicists we just want to measure (experimental physics: "Just facts ma'am, just the facts").

Let me suggest a book, if you didn't already read it: O. Sacks (1985), The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, for whose interested in brain functioning.

... Rings a bell - I heard of it, but have yet to read it.


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chica nueva
Local time: 10:42
Chinese to English
Karl Popper; social expectations of managers; 'the environment' and 'nature' Mar 6, 2009

Vito Smolej wrote:


The problem when it comes to analize experience is far much bigger than it looks like, and let me just introduce this point, which all the philosophers have to deal with when studying Epistemology, through a very representative quote from Karl Popper:...

did not know about this aspect of Popper's work - I had him pidgeonholed somewhere with Schumacher and other Austrian economists (which probably shows the extent of my ignorance)


ha, ha! Karl Popper, eh. We claim him as one of ours...

In 1937, the rise of Nazism and the threat of the Anschluss led Popper to emigrate to New Zealand, where he became lecturer in philosophy at Canterbury University College New Zealand (at Christchurch). In 1946, he moved to England ... (Wikipedia)

My previous point wasn't explained clearly. Never mind. 1 Just I think there is more to it than Khobe allows for; it isn't simply a 'moral' matter, and the 'situations' are very 'clunky' from a 'management' perspective. 2 And I think there was something funny about the experimental design.

1 The conclusion that it is a 'moral' matter is suspect, because to me as a student of 'management', it is just as much a nuanced socio/legal matter of 'custom' perhaps, influenced by sociology and 'class', or ...

2 and it does perhaps reflect more modern (and not necessarily universal) views on 'the environment' or 'nature'. Those terms are interpreted in various different ways, by people of different persuasions (there are books about it). The Marxist view is perhaps a case in point.

so the results have to read bearing in mind the particular social environment in which the study was carried out, and the range of factors influencing the results.

[ Re, the environment, in the case of China, it is interesting because a new official environmental paradigm seems to have come into play under the current leadership, from 2007. It is a mindset-shift promoted (I suppose) by Premier Hu Jintao, who is a geologist by training. It is in the Constitution, and will be part of his legacy to Chinese socialism :

'The Scientific Outlook on Development ... not only focuses on ... but also on ..., not only on ... but also on..., not only on exploitation of nature but also on harmony of nature and mankind," ...'

http://www.china.org.cn/government/central_government/2008-10/08/content_16581439.htm ]

[Edited at 2009-03-06 04:45 GMT]


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chica nueva
Local time: 10:42
Chinese to English
the environment is our home, we help it or harm it ... Mar 10, 2009

but with Man and Nature, intentionality is/was 'multi-variate' ...

to enjoy, control, exploit, make a profit from, celebrate, farm, manage ...

-> so, perhaps there are 2 dualities then, and, as you suggest, today things are changing

'man-environment' is displacing 'Man-Nature', ... different rules start to apply ...

What do you think?

[ Some pics from China:
1 http://www.szxms.com.cn/hysj/index.asp
深圳小梅沙海洋世界
Shenzhen Xiaomeisha Sea World
2 http://www.china.org.cn/china/photos/2009-03/09/content_17408243.htm
PLA conducts air bombing on ice-jams

Correction: Above: Premier Hu Jintao-> President Hu Jintao ]

[Edited at 2009-03-11 10:09 GMT]


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