A majority of people regard the harmful side-effects of an agent's behavior as much more intentional than an agent's helpful side-effects. In this paper, I present evidence for a related asymmetry. When a side-effect action is an instance of harming, folk ascriptions are significantly impacted by the relative badness of either an agent's main goal or her side-effect action, but not her attitude. Yet when a side-effect action is an instance of helping, folk ascriptions are sensitive to an agent's expressed attitude, but not to the relative goodness of her main goal or side-effect. It seems that the connection between harmful side-effects and intentionality is, for many, uniquely impervious to the expressed attitude of the agent in question.

Review of Philosophy and Psychology
Department of Philosophy

Shepherd, J. (2012). Action, Attitude, and the Knobe Effect: Another Asymmetry. Review of Philosophy and Psychology, 3(2), 171–185. doi:10.1007/s13164-011-0079-7