The Epistemic Side-Effect Effect


  • Co-authorship is equal. We are grateful to Josh Knobe and participants at the 2008 Meeting of the Canadian Society for Epistemology for helpful feedback on earlier versions of this paper.

James Beebe, Department of Philosophy, 135 Park Hall, University at Buffalo, Buffalo, NY, 14260, USA.


Knobe (2003a, 2003b, 2004b) and others have demonstrated the surprising fact that the valence of a side-effect action can affect intuitions about whether that action was performed intentionally. Here we report the results of an experiment that extends these findings by testing for an analogous effect regarding knowledge attributions. Our results suggest that subjects are less likely to find that an agent knows an action will bring about a side-effect when the effect is good than when it is bad. It is further argued that these findings, while preliminary, have important implications for recent debates within epistemology about the relationship between knowledge and action.