Brian Robinson

Texas A&M University-Kingsville

Category: Experimental Philosophy

Toolbox in Amsterdam

De Waag at NightIn December, I ran a Toolbox Dialogue Initiative workshop in Amsterdam for the Workshop + Master Class: Digital Humanities, Social Epistemology, & Virtue Theory in a Post-Truth Society, hosted by Mark Alfano and Digital Humanities & Experimental Philosophy Collaborative (DHEPCAT) at Delft University of Technology and Eindhoven University of Technology.

Rembrandt's The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp

Before getting to the details of the TDI workshop, it’s worth mentioning that this was quite possibly the coolest and oldest venue for a TDI workshop. The event was held at The Waag (Weigh House) in Amsterdam’s Nieuwmarkt square, a 15th-century building originally a gate in the city walls and later used to weigh house and meeting place for various guilds. Inside the Waag, the event was held in Theatrum Anaticum, which was built in 1690, held public dissections, and was the setting for Rembrandt’s The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp. The event–with its emphasis on fake news and a post-truth society–was billed as a modern dissection of the body politic.

The Toolbox workshop served as a bridge between the two days of the event. The first focused on talks about social epistemology and fake news. On the second, participants engaged in a Toolbox dialogue on digital humanities in order transition them to the master class on how to conduct various forms of digital humanities research. Robinson constructed a new TDI instrument for this purpose that focused on various forms of misunderstanding about of debates regarding the nature and methods of digital humanities. There were many philosophers present, but several other disciplines as well, including many computer scientists. Though the TDI session was short, the dialogue was fertile and generally regarded as useful for framing the rest of the event.

Measuring Intellectual Humility

As a culmination of our intellectual humility grant in 2013, my co-authors (Mark Alfano, Kathryn Iurino, Paul Stey, Markus Christen, Feng Yu, and Danial Lapsley) have just published our new multi-dimensional measure of intellectual humility. Over five studies (N=3,651), two languages, and five years went into producing this paper in PLoS One, where we present our validate tool for measuring the trait of intellectual humility in people. Here’s the abstract:

This paper presents five studies on the development and validation of a scale of intellectual humility.This scale captures cognitive, affective, behavioral, and motivational components of the construct that have been identified by various philosophers in their conceptual analyses of intellectual humility. We find that intellectual humility has four core dimensions: Open-mindedness (versus Arrogance), Intellectual Modesty (versus Vanity), Corrigibility (versus Fragility), and Engagement (versus Boredom). These dimensions display adequate self-informant agreement, and adequate convergent, divergent, and discriminant validity. In particular, Open-mindedness adds predictive power beyond the Big Six for an objective behavioral measure of intellectual humility, and Intellectual Modesty is uniquely related to Narcissism. We find that a similar factor structure emerges in Germanophone participants, giving initial evidence for the model’s cross-cultural generalizability.

Reversing the Side-Effect Effect

Some of you are already familiar with the Side-Effect Effect by now. In a new article forthcoming in Philosophical Studies, Paul Stey, Mark Alfano, and I demonstrate that we can reverse the effect and therefore explain what the effect is as never before possible.

Tony Hayward

Tony Hayward – former CEO of BP (credit: Justin Thomas)

First discovered by Joshua Knobe (and hence sometimes called the Knobe Effect), the effect’s hallmark is an asymmetric attribution of some psychological state or other. In Knobe’s original study, the chairman of the board alternately harms or helps the environment as a side-effect of a new profit-increasing program. Knobe found an asymmetric pattern of attributions of intentionality in the two cases: the folk said he intentionally harmed the environment, but he didn’t intentionally help it. Since this seminal work, a literature on the effect has developed, expanding it in terms of the states asymmetrically attributed (intentionality, desires, beliefs, knowledge, etc.) and the type of norm involved (moral, legal, prudential, aesthetic, descriptive, etc.). As the literature on the effect has expanded, it has become increasingly difficult to precisely characterize the nature of the effect. While it initially looked like people were more willing to say a morally bad side effect was intentional, that interpretation doesn’t hold up since the asymmetry is present in studies involving on non-moral norms. So what is the Side-Effect Effect anyway? How do we describe it? We can already say that the effect refers to the asymmetric attribution rates for various psychological states, but based on what? When are the attribution rates higher or lower? Continue reading

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