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Biases, beliefs and responsiveness to evidence

Wednesday 12 October 2016 (13:00-14:00)

Philosophy Work in Progress Seminar Series 2016

The Philosophy department's work in progress seminar is an opportunity for the members of staff at Birmingham to present the material they are working on to each other and to the department's postgraduate students.
The seminar meets roughly on fortnightly Wednesdays from 13:00 to 14.00 (ERI Building, room 149).
All welcome!


It has been proposed that whilst implicit attitudes might be of the same structural kind as beliefs in that they are propositional (Mandelbaum, 2016), nevertheless, they are processed in a markedly different way: the former respond to evidence and modulate other attitudes in a far patchier and more fragmented manner than the latter, and should therefore be considered a sui generis class, the “patchy endorsements” (Levy, 2015).

I demonstrate that the patchy endorsements theorist is committed to the truth of two claims: (i) that implicit attitudes and beliefs inhabit a continuum as regards how they are processed, but do not overlap on this continuum; and (ii) that there is a sufficient gap between the last implicit attitude and the first belief on the continuum to uphold that the former constitute a sui generis class. I argue that both (i) and (ii) fail to hold. I first motivate the case for thinking that implicit attitudes are not, by their nature, unresponsive to evidence. Then I introduce a number of cases involving ordinary beliefs with low evidence responsiveness and inferential efficacy, and argue that, together, these results show that (i) and (ii) are false. I propose that a better interpretation of the phenomena at hand is to accept that attitudes may be ordered along a continuum as regards their processing characteristics, where, at one extreme end, we find just implicit attitudes, and at the other, just beliefs, but in the middle, there is an area of overlap. As such, implicit attitudes do not constitute a sui generis class as regards how they are processed

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