9 thoughts on “What is “experimental philosophy”?

  1. Kleiner

    So ‘experimental philosophy’ is just cognitive psychology or neuroscience? Seriously, what is the difference?
    Look, I just skimmed the article, but my response to such things is always this bit of ‘armchair psychology’: This discussion seems driven by a group of people who seem to regret their choice to go to graduate school in philosophy instead of science. Since they already have philosophy degrees (and jobs), but would rather be doing science (but are not qualified for those jobs), they insist that philosophy become an empirical science so they can actually be scientists.



  2. Huenemann Post author

    I’m not sure I’m a big fan of the idea either. But here’s what I can say on its behalf. A lot of philosophy is driven by thought experiments — what we would say about this situation, or that situation. Well, how do we figure out what “we” would say? Usually, we just introspect. But if we try to discover more systematically what a broad variety of people would say, we may find that our intuitions are at odds with what many other people find intuitively obvious.


  3. Kleiner

    Okay, I see the value in that (though that might just involve doing some polling). But I’m inclined to say that this already happens, ‘on the back end’ as it were. Different philosophers develop various views, and these views are in large part driven by some of their ‘inclinations’. (Say, Aristotle’s epistemological optimism, Aquinas’ suggestion that nature makes nothing in vain, Hume’s skepticism, Derrida’s playfulness, etc).

    But the validity of these inclinations is already judged in the battleground of ideas. If what Aquinas takes to be intuitive is at odds with what many other people find intuitively obvious, well then Thomistic philosophy won’t get much traction in the ‘marketplace of ideas’. So much the worse for Thomism, right? I guess we could say that Aquinas had, then, wasted some time (since all he did was work out his own very private inclinations), but it doesn’t seem as if anyone is really harmed by it.
    It seems to me that philosophy is a deeply personal exercise, so one has to work out and work from their own inclinations and intuitions. But philosophy is not merely personal, it is also public. Philosophical writings function as a sort of invitation. You are invited to think with the text, to see if it resonates with you (if you share its intuitive sense). If you don’t, well then read and believe something else.
    This will make philosophical progress somewhat slow, since there is a sense in which every question has to be re-asked by every person. Some might find this frustrating, but tough bounce – that is just the way it is. To insist otherwise (to make philosophy a mere science) is to sacrifice something essential to philosophy – its deeply personal origins.


  4. Peter

    I suggest “The Past and Future of Experimental Philosophy” by Nadelhoffer & Nahmias in Philosophical Explorations for a clear overview of experimental philosophy & the three major approaches to it. It’s available on the web.


  5. Joeseph Smith

    There is no such thing as immaterial matter. All spirit is matter, but is more fine or pure, and can only be discerned by purer eyes. We cannot see it, but when our bodies are purified, we shall see that it is all matter.


  6. Huenemann Post author

    So, Joseph: what is the difference between “fine or pure” matter, and immaterial substance? In other words, what makes “fine or pure” matter count as matter? Does it have mass, for instance?



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