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Intentional Side-Effects of Action *

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Certain recent experiments are often taken to show that people are far more likely to classify a foreseen side-effect of an action as intentional when that side-effect has some negative normative valence. While there is some disagreement over the details, there is broad consensus among experimental philosophers that this is the finding. We challenge this consensus by presenting an alternative interpretation of the experiments, according to which they show that a side-effect is classified as intentional only if the agent considered its relative importance when deciding on the action. We present two new experiments whose results can be explained by our hypothesis but not by any version of the consensus view. In the course of doing so, we develop a methodological critique of the previous literature on this topic and draw from it lessons for future experimental philosophy research.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Philosophy, University of Sheffield, 45 Victoria Street, Sheffield S3 7QB, UK, ; 2: School of English, Communication, and Philosophy, Cardiff University, Humanities Building, Colum Drive, Cardiff CF10 3EU, UK,


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1. Adams Fred ,and Steadman Annie . 2004a. "Intentional Action in Ordinary Language: Core Concept or Pragmatic Understanding?" Analysis Vol 64: 17381.
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