Analysis 80 (4):737-751 (2020)

Jonathan Weinberg
University of Arizona
Joshua Alexander
Siena College
Edouard Machery argues that many traditional philosophical questions are beyond our capacity to answer. Answering them seems to require using the method of cases, a method that involves testing answers to philosophical questions against what we think about real or imagined cases. The problem, according to Machery, is that this method has proved unreliable ; what we think about these kinds of cases is both problematically heterogeneous and volatile. His bold solution: abandon the method of cases altogether and with it many of the questions that we have come to associate with philosophy itself. Many of the critical responses to Machery’s book have focused on whether empirical work on judgements about philosophical cases supports his claim that the method of cases is unreliable. Our problem with these responses is that they accept that reliability is the right way to frame empirically informed concerns about the method of cases, and we think that it is not. The reason is simple: the kind of unreliability thesis that Machery needs proves to be empirically intractable, at least by anything like the current methods used by experimental philosophers, or so we shall argue here. While we have empirical grounds for thinking that unreliability arguments don’t give us reason to abandon the method of cases, we do think that there are empirical grounds for thinking that it needs to be reformed. There are other standards that we expect our methods to meet beyond mere reliability, especially standards of practical rationality, which are too often forgotten in metaphilosophical discussions that tend to focus exclusively on epistemological considerations. Methodological considerations, after all, are not just matters of epistemic normativity, but practical rationality as well. What’s more, considerations of practical rationality become particularly important when we move from the kind of extreme scepticism that Machery endorses to the kind of progressive reformation that we think should be pursued. And so we conclude by arguing that thinking about philosophical inquiry in terms of standards of practical rationality allows us both to better understand what kinds of problems recent empirical work on philosophical cognition raises for the method of cases and also how that work can point the way to reforming it.
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DOI 10.1093/analys/anaa053
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References found in this work BETA

Philosophy Within its Proper Bounds.Edouard Machery - 2017 - Oxford University Press.
Experimental Philosophy and Philosophical Intuition.Ernest Sosa - 2007 - Philosophical Studies 132 (1):99-107.

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Citations of this work BETA

Responses to Herman Cappelen and Jennifer Nado.Edouard Machery - 2022 - Philosophical Studies 179 (1):329-342.

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