Monday, March 02, 2009


Experimental Philosophy Tee available at Cafe Press

For the x-phi [or experimental philosophy] fan, empirical research is not a mere prop to philosophy, it is philosophy.

Under the x-phi banner it’s possible to distinguish three types of activity. The first uses new brain-scanning technology, for which philosophers teaming up with neuroscientists ... to look for patterns of neuronal activity when subjects are presented with philosophical problems.

In the second type, philosophers devise questionnaires to discover people’s intuitions and go out in the street with the trusty clipboard.

In the third, they conduct field experiments, observing how people behave in particular situations, often without their knowledge.

All three aim to test the philosophers’ assumption that they know from introspection what people are likely to say or believe. The traditional philosophical assertion, “we have strong intuitions that…” or “we can all agree that…” now have to be tested against the evidence. The idea of who “we” are is being challenged, for instance by surveys suggesting broad cultural differences about intuitions. The philosopher in his Oxford study may not share intuitions with the shopper down the road in Queen’s Street, whose intuitions, in turn, may differ from those in Queen’s Road, Hong Kong.

Christopher Kelty writing on the (relatively) new movement -- or rather resurgence -- of Experimental Philosophy in Philosophers Discover Lost Tribe in Jungles of Free Will at Savage Minds: Notes and Queries in Anthropology.

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