Armchair philosophy: Is It Sexist?

Over at the Boston Globe's excellent blog Brainiac:

Intuition, or apprehension of certain facts or conclusions by the mind alone, sometimes without the intervention of reason, is in theory genderless. But at the website Experimental Philosophy, a professor at the City University of New York, Wesley Buckwalter, presents evidence that men and women intuit different conclusions when faced with the same sets of facts.

One of the examples has to do with a popular subject in X-Phi: intuitions about a person's state of mind in certain situations depending on whether those situations end well or badly. For instance, if a vice president of a corporation goes to his chairman of the board and says, “We are thinking of starting a new program. We are sure that it will help us increase profits, and it will also harm the environment,” and the chairman responds, “I don't care about the environment, I'm only interested in profits. Go ahead,” did the chairman know that his actions would cause harm? What if the new program will help the environment, and the chairman responds in the same way? Did he know that good would follow?

Although the two scenarios are logically the same, test subjects are more likely to say the chairman knew that the harm would happen than that good would occur. (Likewise, they are more willing to place moral blame than praise in the alternate situations.) Buckwalter's contribution is to find, at least in his test sample of 405 men and 340 women, that women are even more likely than men–by a striking amount–to shift their epistemic conclusions depending on the outcome of the scenario.

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