Arnold Kling  

Behavioral Philosophy?

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Kwame Anthony Appiah writes,


Edouard Machery, a philosopher of science at the University of Pittsburgh by way of the Sorbonne, told subjects about a man named Joe who visits the local smoothie shop and asks for the largest drink available. Joe is informed that the megasmoothies come in a special commemorative cup. He doesn’t care one way or the other about the cup. He just wants the megasmoothie. Did he get the commemorative cup intentionally? Most people said no. What if, instead, he’s informed that the megasmoothie has gone up in price and that he’ll have to pay an extra dollar for it? Joe doesn’t care about the extra dollar; he just wants the megasmoothie. Did he pay the extra dollar intentionally? Most people said yes. Machery concluded that foreseen side effects of our actions are taken to be intended when we conceive them as costs incurred for a benefit.

Behavioral economics is bad enough. Do we need behavioral philosophy?


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COMMENTS (6 to date)
Neel Krishnaswami writes:

Your rhetorical question has a non-rhetorical answer: yes, we need it.

That's because we need analytic philosophy in order to design new logical formalisms, and we need those logical formalisms in order to design policy languages for computer systems (e.g., for security purposes). Since those policy languages will be used by people who don't have PhD's in formal logic, it is important to understand the implicit logic people are reasoning with.

For example, you can view the Wason selection task either as evidence that people reason badly, or as evidence that the semantics of natural language conditionals are not actually classical propositional implication, but something else, like deontic rules. See Stenning and van Lambalgen's "A Little Logic Goes a Long Way: Basic Experiment on Semantic Theory in the Cognitive Science of Conditional Reasoning."

Jack writes:

I can see the usefulness but not the novelty. Hasn't psychology pretty much exhausted this line of questions... in the 1970s?

conchis writes:

Another insightful post. Do you actually have an argument?

brian writes:

What do you mean by "Behavioral economics is bad enough"? Do you mean it does not explain anything? Or that it tries to explain too much and is hence unwieldy?

More specific to this post, this is a clear problem with determining revealed preferences, and should not be discarded.

FC writes:

Dear Professor Machery:

Duh.

Sincerely,

FC

Sigve Indregard writes:

Hm. The philosophy of action is clearly important. A clear understanding of the relationship between intention and causality has a major impact in the law&punishment business.

But the argument you present is just plain stupid. The argument from majority is even worse than general arguments derived from language use.

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