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05/10/2014

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jonathan weinberg

Cool. Do y'all take on the Pinillos & Simpson update on their "proofreading" study. btw?

Jason Stanley

John - this is wonderful news if you get this result!! Because of course the argument of my 2005 book is precisely that it is actionability that plays the relevant practical role in knowledge. The chief premise of that book is that knowledge is a norm of action; act on p iff you know that p. If you look carefully at Chapter 5 of my 2005 book, that is precisely what the relevant practical effect is defined as being (see pp. 91ff. on the discussion of the notion of a 'serious practical question'). I am of course not responsible for anyone else's misrepresentation of the nature of that practical effect. In my writing, I have been as clear as it is possible to be that the relevant practical effect is exactly what you call actionability. That is why the knowledge norm for action plays such a central role - indeed *the* central role in the argument. I think I was as clear as it was possible to be in chapter 5 that actionability is exactly what is at issue (see my 2008 paper with John Hawthorne, "Knowledge and Action", where we hammer out the relevant principle that underlies all of this). So I am very pleased by your result. I am happy to have it presented as a refutation of my view if you think that will help sales or whatever, because your claim is to have shown that knowledge has a practical dimension just as significant as its non-practical dimensions, and furthermore its source is exactly what I claim it to be. Yay!!!!

John Turri

Hi Jonathan,

We don't take on anyone specifically. Our goal was to measure what needed to be measured in order to answer the questions that philosophers have been asking about knowledge attributions.

Jason Stanley

This raises of course the question - what the heck do people think interest relative invariantism is? My entire 2005 book - like the whole thing - and all my subsequent work and writing on this - is precisely a defense of actionability.

John Turri

Hi Jason,

I agree 100% that you — and others, back through William James and John Locke — have posited a connection between (judgments of) knowledge and (judgments of) action. Your work leaves no doubt that you think this connection is important.

I'm definitely not here to criticize anyone for being less than clear in their writing. At the same time, I think it's overstated to say that you've been as clear as it is possible to be. Because there's an unmistakable tendency in your writing to phrase things in terms of "stakes," "costs," "interests," and "importance" affecting knowledge. So, for instance, in the 2005 book, at one point or another you speak of "the costs of being wrong," "greater practical investment," and "the importance to some person." In your experimental work with Chandra, you speak of "how much is at stake in a situation" having "a direct impact" on knowledge, and of the folk having "stakes-sensitive intuitions," and you also write "we should only be asking subjects whether their judgments about the epistemic facts vary between circumstances differing only in what is at stake." A judgment about these things is not the same thing as a judgment about how one "should act," and they relate differently to knowledge judgments. It is a nontrivial task to separate these things in an experimental design and measure for differences in how they relate to each other and to judgments of truth, evidence, and knowledge.

In any event, I am not interested in hyping research at other people's expense, and we are not looking to "refute" anybody. We're interested, in the first place, in providing tangible evidence about how these judgments are made and relate to one another. I'm happy that you feel vindicated by our research.

Angel P

Hi John. This is great. I would be very interested in reading the paper.Let me add that in all the experimental papers I have published where I show “stakes” effects, I also, separately, attempt to show that people are adhering to what you are calling “actionability”. I did find some evidence to support that thesis. I mention this, because, actionability (together with some plausible principles) seems to entail stake sensitivity. So it would be extremely surprising if people adhered to actionability but did not use “knows” in a way that was sensitive to stakes. You mention that you guys found that there was indeed a stakes effect but that it is entirely mediated by judgments about truth and evidence. I guess I would like to see details on that. I don’t see, off the bat, how a plausible human model can make sense of that result unless “evidence” itself was pragmatically encroached. But of course, I believe, though I could be mistaken, that Jason Stanley accepts this view about evidence, and I am also sympathetic to it. In fact, your result, it seems to me, is nicely explained by theories which accept that epistemic notions including evidence and knowledge are pragmatically encroached. So I agree with Stanley above (though for different reasons) that the result is not bad for IRI or for anything that I have written, for example. Though this comment is perhaps premature, not having read your paper (it is not linked above).

John Turri

Hi Angel,

Let's email about sharing the paper. (It's not linked above because it's not publicly available yet, though there will be a public presentation later this month.)

I'm glad that the results as described are not bad for anything that you have written (nor do we claim that this is the case).

Yes, results from one of our experiments are consistent with a direct effect of stakes on evidence. However, we did not test for mediation via actionability judgments (since our primary focus was knowledge), and this result did not replicate in a second study. Moreover, in one experiment, we observed a large action-effect on knowledge judgments even though (1) stakes had no effect at all on judgments about belief, truth, evidence, or knowledge, while (2) stakes did affect people's judgment about how important matters were (so people were definitely attending to the stakes). So, however surprising it might seem, the action-effect is definitely separable from any stakes-sensitivity.

In connection with this, I should also mention that this was not a close call — the difference between the two factors was enormous. Across experiments with nearly 1000 participants, when it came to predicting knowledge judgments in regression, actionability explained about 30-35% of the variance, whereas stakes/importance had basically zero predictive value. By comparison, truth judgments explained about 30-35% variance, and evidence judgments explained about 15%. We have replicated this multiple times since, and the same picture emerges from causal modeling.

In the bigger picture, I would not be surprised if stakes had some role to play in modulating or amplifying the effect of actionability. But, as of now, we don't have any evidence for that.

There's a lot going on here that no human could ever glean by even the most astute social observations and reflection.

Angel P

Hi John, it does sound like interesting and important data. I look forward to reading it.

Angel P

For those interested, there is further discussion on this topic at Certain Doubts (also, I clarify there that by "actionability" in my comment I meant the connection between knowledge and what one should do).

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