Archive for May, 2015

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“Pernicious Stipulations” (5/28/2015)

May 26, 2015

David Colaço

Abstract: We introduce a series of studies to suggest that the intuitive judgments drawn from philosophical thought experiments may be sensitive to a variety of stipulations that we find to be pernicious. Generally, we define pernicious stipulations as those included in the scenarios of thought experiments that influence participants’ judgments in ways that are predictable, yet are independent of the alleged philosophical content of those thought experiments. These stipulations bias participants toward particular readings of the scenarios, with this bias based on the discord between what is stipulated and what either (1) the participant already believes before reading the scenario, or (2) the participant infers from other information in the scenario. If participants are biased by this discord, participants’ judgments in such a case may not have to do with the relevant philosophical issues the case is intended to probe. Thus, if thought experiments contain pernicious stipulations, they may not be able to effectively play an evidential role in probing one’s philosophical intuitions.