A growing body of empirical literature challenges philosophers’ reliance on intuitions as evidence based on the fact that intuitions vary according to factors such as cultural and educational background, and socio-economic status. Our research extends this challenge, investigating Lehrer’s appeal to the Truetemp Case as evidence against reliabilism. We found that intuitions in response to this case vary according to whether, and which, other thought experiments are considered first. Our results show that compared to subjects who receive the Truetemp Case (...) first, subjects first presented with a clear case of knowledge are less willing to attribute knowledge in the Truetemp Case, and subjects first presented with a clear case of nonknowledge are more willing to attribute knowledge in the Truetemp Case. We contend that this instability undermines the supposed evidential status of these intuitions, such that philosophers who deal in intuitions can no longer rest comfortably in their armchairs. (shrink)
Experimental philosophy uses experimental research methods from psychology and cognitive science in order to investigate both philosophical and metaphilosophical questions. It explores philosophical questions about the nature of the psychological world - the very structure or meaning of our concepts of things, and about the nature of the non-psychological world - the things themselves. It also explores metaphilosophical questions about the nature of philosophical inquiry and its proper methodology. This book provides a detailed and provocative introduction to this innovative field, (...) focusing on the relationship between experimental philosophy and the aims and methods of more traditional analytic philosophy. Special attention is paid to carefully examining experimental philosophy's quite different philosophical programs, their individual strengths and weaknesses, and the different kinds of contributions that they can make to our philosophical understanding. Clear and accessible throughout, it situates experimental philosophy within both a contemporary and historical context, explains its aims and methods, examines and critically evaluates its most significant claims and arguments, and engages with its critics. (shrink)
Recent experimental philosophy arguments have raised trouble for philosophers' reliance on armchair intuitions. One popular line of response has been the expertise defense: philosophers are highly-trained experts, whereas the subjects in the experimental philosophy studies have generally been ordinary undergraduates, and so there's no reason to think philosophers will make the same mistakes. But this deploys a substantive empirical claim, that philosophers' training indeed inculcates sufficient protection from such mistakes. We canvass the psychological literature on expertise, which indicates that people (...) are not generally very good at reckoning who will develop expertise under what circumstances. We consider three promising hypotheses concerning what philosophical expertise might consist in: (i) better conceptual schemata; (ii) mastery of entrenched theories; and (iii) general practical know-how with the entertaining of hypotheticals. On inspection, none seem to provide us with good reason to endorse this key empirical premise of the expertise defense. (shrink)
It has been standard philosophical practice in analytic philosophy to employ intuitions generated in response to thought-experiments as evidence in the evaluation of philosophical claims. In part as a response to this practice, an exciting new movement—experimental philosophy—has recently emerged. This movement is unified behind both a common methodology and a common aim: the application of methods of experimental psychology to the study of the nature of intuitions. In this paper, we will introduce two different views concerning the relationship that (...) holds between experimental philosophy and the future of standard philosophical practice (what we call, the proper foundation view and the restrictionist view), discuss some of the more interesting and important results obtained by proponents of both views, and examine the pressure these results put on analytic philosophers to reform standard philosophical practice. We will also defend experimental philosophy from some recent objections, suggest future directions for work in experimental philosophy, and suggest what future lines of epistemological response might be available to those wishing to defend analytic epistemology from the challenges posed by experimental philosophy. (shrink)
In recent years, a number of philosophers have conducted empirical studies that survey people's intuitions about various subject matters in philosophy. Some have found that intuitions vary accordingly to seemingly irrelevant facts: facts about who is considering the hypothetical case, the presence or absence of certain kinds of content, or the context in which the hypothetical case is being considered. Our research applies this experimental philosophical methodology to Judith Jarvis Thomson's famous Loop Case, which she used to call into question (...) the validity of the intuitively plausible Doctrine of Double Effect. We found that intuitions about the Loop Case vary according to the context in which the case is considered. We contend that this undermines the supposed evidential status of intuitions about the Loop Case. We conclude by considering the implications of our findings for philosophers who rely on the Loop Case to make philosophical arguments and for philosophers who use intuitions in general. (shrink)
Our interest in this paper is to drive a wedge of contention between two different programs that fall under the umbrella of “experimental philosophy”. In particular, we argue that experimental philosophy’s “negative program” presents almost as significant a challenge to its “positive program” as it does to more traditional analytic philosophy.
This chapter sheds light on a response to experimental philosophy that has not yet received enough attention: the reflection defense. According to proponents of this defense, judgments about philosophical cases are relevant only when they are the product of careful, nuanced, and conceptually rigorous reflection. The chapter argues that the reflection defense is misguided: Five studies (N>1800) are presented, showing that people make the same judgments when they are primed to engage in careful reflection as they do in the conditions (...) standardly used by experimental philosophers. (shrink)
Jennifer Nagel (2010) has recently proposed a fascinating account of the decreased tendency to attribute knowledge in conversational contexts in which unrealized possibilities of error have been mentioned. Her account appeals to epistemic egocentrism, or what is sometimes called the curse of knowledge, an egocentric bias to attribute our own mental states to other people (and sometimes our own future and past selves). Our aim in this paper is to investigate the empirical merits of Nagel’s hypothesis about the psychology involved (...) in knowledge attribution. (shrink)
It has become increasingly popular to respond to experimental philosophy by suggesting that experimental philosophers haven’t been studying the right kind of thing. One version of this kind of response, which we call the reflection defense, involves suggesting both that philosophers are interested only in intuitions that are the product of careful reflection on the details of hypothetical cases and the key concepts involved in those cases, and that these kinds of philosophical intuitions haven’t yet been adequately studied by experimental (...) philosophers. Of course, as a defensivemove, thisworks only if reflective intuitions are immune from the kinds of problematic effects that form the basis of recent experimental challenges to philosophy’s intuition-deploying practices. If they are not immune to these kinds of effects, then the fact that experimental philosophers have not had the right kind of thing in their sights would provide little comfort to folks invested in philosophy’s intuition-deploying practices. Here we provide reasons to worry that even reflective intuitions can display sensitivity to the same kinds of problematic effects, although possibly in slightly different ways. As it turns out, being reflective might sometimes just mean being wrong in a different way. (shrink)
There are two ways of understanding experimental philosophy's process of appealing to intuitions as evidence for or against philosophical claims: the positive and negative programs. This chapter deals with how the positivist method of conceptual analysis is affected by the results of the negative program. It begins by describing direct extramentalism, semantic mentalism, conceptual mentalism, and mechanist mentalism, all of which argue that intuitions are credible sources of evidence and will therefore be shared. The negative program challenges this view by (...) questioning if there can be in fact a shared intuition about a specific hypothetical case, as conflicting intuitions are as likely to arise. The chapter then discusses other issues raised by the negativists such as the limits of surveys and the proper domain problem. (shrink)
In this paper, we consider two different attempts to make an end run around the experimentalist challenge to the armchair use of intuitions: one due to Max Deutsch and Herman Cappelen, contending that philosophers do not appeal to intuitions, but rather to arguments, in canonical philosophical texts; the other due to Joshua Knobe, arguing that intuitions are so stable that there is in fact no empirical basis for the experimentalist challenge in the first place. We show that a closer attention (...) to philosophical practices reveal, in turn, that we cannot make sense of these philosophical texts as arguments all the way down; and that our methods are so sensitive to error that even a modest amount of instability is enough to raise deep methodological concerns. (shrink)
Experimental philosophy has emerged as a very specific kind of response to an equally specific way of thinking about philosophy, one typically associated with philosophical analysis and according to which philosophical claims are measured, at least in part, by our intuitions. Since experimental philosophy has emerged as a response to this way of thinking about philosophy, its philosophical significance depends, in no small part, on how significant the practice of appealing to intuitions is to philosophy. In this paper, I defend (...) the significance of experimental philosophy by defending the significance of intuitions—in particular, by defending their significance from a recent challenge advanced by Timothy Williamson. (shrink)
Philosophical discussions often involve appeals to verdicts about particular cases, sometimes actual, more often hypothetical, and usually with little or no substantive argument in their defense. Philosophers — on both sides of debates over the standing of this practice — have often called the basis for such appeals ‘intuitions’. But, what might such ‘intuitions’ be, such that they could legitimately serve these purposes? Answers vary, ranging from ‘thin’ conceptions that identify intuitions as merely instances of some fairly generic and epistemologically (...) uncontroversial category of mental states or episodes to ‘thick’ conceptions that add to this thin base certain semantic, phenomenological, etiological, or methodological conditions. As this chapter discusses, thick conceptions turn out to have their own methodological problems; some may even leave philosophers in the methodologically untenable position of being unable to determine when anyone is doing philosophy correctly. (shrink)
Disagreement is a hot topic right now in epistemology, where there is spirited debate between epistemologists who argue that we should be moved by the fact that we disagree and those who argue that we need not. Both sides to this debate often use what is commonly called “the method of cases,” designing hypothetical cases involving peer disagreement and using what we think about those cases as evidence that specific normative theories are true or false, and as reasons for believing (...) as such. With so much weight being given in the epistemology of disagreement to what people think about cases of peer disagreement, our goal in this paper is to examine what kinds of things might shape how people think about these kinds of cases. We will show that two different kinds of framing effect shape how people think about cases of peer disagreement, and examine both what this means for how the method of cases is used in the epistemology of disagreement and what this might tell us about the role that motivated cognition is playing in debates about which normative positions about peer disagreement are right and wrong. (shrink)
We present several new studies focusing on “salience effects”—the decreased tendency to attribute knowledge to someone when an unrealized possibility of error has been made salient in a given conversational context. These studies suggest a complicated picture of epistemic universalism: there may be structural universals, universal epistemic parameters that influence epistemic intuitions, but that these parameters vary in such a way that epistemic intuitions, in either their strength or propositional content, can display patterns of genuine cross-cultural diversity.
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. (shrink)
Knobe's argument rests on a way of distinguishing performance errors from the competencies that delimit our cognitive architecture. We argue that other sorts of evidence than those that he appeals to are needed to illuminate the boundaries of our folk capacities in ways that would support his conclusions.
Learning more about philosophical cognition has yielded significant insights into the methods that we employ when doing philosophy, and has led some experimental philosophers to raise concerns about the role that intuitions play in philosophical practice. One popular response to these methodological concerns involves appeal to philosophical expertise, and has become known as the expertise defense because it aims to defend the use of at least some kinds of intuitional evidence in philosophy. The basic idea is that philosophical expertise consists (...) in having developed, through a process of critical reflection, increased conceptual competence and theoretical accuracy, as well as a special knack for reading and thinking about philosophical thought experiments that call upon us to exercise our conceptual competence and theoretical acumen. It turns out to be an open question whether this folk theory of philosophical expertise can restore hope in the value of intuitional evidence, and here we examine two ways of trying to answer that question: one that involves careful reflection on the supposed benefits of philosophical education, and one that involves careful empirical examination of “expert” philosophical intuitions. (shrink)
What is a law of nature? Traditionally, philosophical discussion of this question has been dominated by two prominent alternatives; David Lewis’s best-systems analysis, according to which a law is a regularity that serves as a theorem in our best axiomatization of the facts about the world, and the Dretske-Armstrong-Tooley analysis, which incorporates universals to distinguish laws from mere accidental generalizations. Marc Lange’s ﬁrst book presents a provocative alternative to this tradition, providing a novel treatment of natural laws that should be (...) of interest to those philosophers concerned with the analysis of lawhood, physical necessity, causation, inductive conﬁrmation, counterfactual analysis, and explanation. (shrink)
One rather common way of doing philosophy involves what is called “the method of cases,” where philosophers design hypothetical cases and use what we think about those cases—our “philosophical intuitions”—as evidence that certain philosophical theories are true or false, and as reasons for believing that those theories are true or false. This way of doing philosophy has been challenged in recent years on the basis of both general epistemological considerations and more specific methodological concerns. These methodological concerns have focused not (...) on whether philosophical intuitions can be a good source of evidence, but rather on whether they can be used in the ways that they currently are used in actual philosophical practice given how little we know about them and some of the worrisome things that we have learned about them in recent years. My goal here is to provide you with a short introduction to this way of challenging to how philosophers use the method of cases, and to walk you through some of the more popular ways of responding to this kind of methodological challenge and some of their shortcomings. (shrink)