Reflective Intentions: Philosophical Concepts of Intentionality

Kevin Patrick Tobia, University of Oxford


A striking finding in experimental philosophy is that attributions of intentionality are sometimes influenced by seemingly external moral considerations. The most notable case of this phenomenon involves the intentionality of causing side-effects; causing a good side-effect is judged as unintentional while causing a bad side-effect is judged as intentional (Knobe, 2003a). I present a number of experimental manipulations among participants considering these types of cases that demonstrate the effect of increased reflective thinking. In the experiments presented, increased reflection leads participants to judge that both good and bad side-effect cases are unintentional. I argue that if our goal is conceptual analysis of ‘intentionality,’ increased reflection could lead to a clearer understanding of that concept. That is, if we are concerned with the ordinary concept of intentionality, the side-effect effect might be partly the result of insufficient reflection and conceptual clarity.


Reflective Intentions: Philosophical Concepts of Intentionality (234 KB)

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