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Joshua Knobe
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Carolyn, This is a deeply important question, and I am really delighted that you are bringing it up here. On one hand, I certainly think that it is very important to continue teaching students about traditional metaphysical topics (dualism, functionalism, etc.). Yet, on the other hand, it seems that it would not be in the interests of our students for us to focus almost exclusively on topics like these. At this point, the majority of work in the philosophical study of mind does not seem to be on these topics but rather on questions about how people's minds actually work. It would, I think, be a big mistake on our parts if we nonetheless continued focus almost exclusively on these traditional issues, ignoring more contemporary developments. That said, I don't feel like I have a very good sense of precisely what sorts of work about how the mind actually works would be best to teach in these classes. So I would be very grateful for any suggestions people had on that score.
Should we focus exclusively on the topics that dominated the philosophical study of mind in the 20th Century (dualism, functionalism, etc.)? Or should we also be teaching students about the kinds of questions that have dominated more recent work in the philosophical study of mind -- questions that are more... Continue reading
Posted Mar 9, 2016 at Experimental Philosophy
A week from now, NYU will be hosting a workshop on issues at the intersection of experimental philosophy and the history of philosophy. Basically, the workshop will be about how figures from various periods in the history of philosophy thought about the kinds of issues raised by contemporary experimental philosophy.... Continue reading
Posted Feb 14, 2016 at Experimental Philosophy
Recent work in experimental philosophy has raised a host of important questions about the relationship between philosophy and empirical psychology. Yet many of these questions were actually discussed in earlier periods in the history of philosophy. Indeed, it often seems that recent work in experimental philosophy is much more closely... Continue reading
Posted Jan 1, 2016 at Experimental Philosophy
As many of you will know, there has been a certain amount of controversy about whether the impact of moral judgment on intentional action intuitions is explained by something about people's emotions. Recently, two new papers on the topic have come out. Both use innovative and sophisticated methods, and both... Continue reading
Posted Dec 9, 2015 at Experimental Philosophy
One of the most striking results coming out of experimental work on people's intuitions about determinism is that people think that a deterministic universe would be really, really, really different from the one we inhabit now. It's not just that it would be different in some subtle metaphysical or moral... Continue reading
Posted Nov 1, 2015 at Flickers of Freedom
Edouard Machery has a thought-provoking new post on the role of empirically oriented philosophy in the invited program of meetings of the American Philosophical Association. Basically, he suggests that empirically oriented philosophy (including experimental philosophy) is strikingly underrepresented at the APA, relative to its prominence in the discipline as a... Continue reading
Posted Oct 19, 2015 at Experimental Philosophy
In a recent post, I discussed a new study showing that people's intuitions about Gettier cases are remarkably invariant across cultures. This post generated a whole lot of discussion on social media, and although most of this discussion was extremely helpful and well-informed, I worry that some of it betrays... Continue reading
Posted Aug 28, 2015 at Experimental Philosophy
Within the more metaphilosophically-oriented literature on experimental philosophy, there has been a great deal of discussion of the philosophical implications of cross-cultural differences in intuitions about Gettier cases. This work has been extremely impressive from a purely philosophical perspective, but at times, I worry that it has not been sufficiently... Continue reading
Posted Aug 19, 2015 at Experimental Philosophy
Oxford Studies in Experimental Philosophy is calling for papers for its second volume. The deadline for submissions is March 1, 2016. Work on free will and moral responsibility has played an important role in experimental philosophy thus far, and this therefore seems like an obvious outlet for the Flickers community.... Continue reading
Posted Jul 7, 2015 at Flickers of Freedom
The Oxford Studies in Experimental Philosophy series, published by Oxford University Press and edited by Tania Lombrozo, Joshua Knobe, and Shaun Nichols, is now calling for papers for its second volume. The series joins other successful series in the Oxford Studies in… collection, which bring together original articles on all... Continue reading
Posted Jul 6, 2015 at Experimental Philosophy
As some of you may know, the movement known as 'experimental philosophy' was not the first to suggest running rigorous experimental studies about people's ordinary intuitions. There was a philosophical movement in the mid-twentieth century that conducted studies along similar lines, but that earlier movement was completely defeated by its... Continue reading
Posted Jul 1, 2015 at Experimental Philosophy
Many of you are probably familiar with the story of Phineas Gage. He was widely regarded as a kind and generous man, but he suffered from a freak accident during his work on a railroad, and the result was that... Continue reading
Posted May 22, 2015 at PEA Soup
All of these comments are very well-taken and definitely help to clarify the properties of the Google Scholar Metrics list. Still, I worry that people may be looking to this spreadsheet to do something for which it was never really intended. So it might be helpful for me to say just a little bit more about what I was aiming to accomplish with the list. The goal was to get a better understanding of what philosophers are doing these days in the study of the mind and how work these days differs from work in the 20th century. To do this, I needed a sample of philosophy papers. One approach would be to just look at papers from certain specific journals (say, Phil Review and JPhil). I have a lot of respect for work that has taken this approach, but as Brian Weatherson has pointed out, these journals are a little bit unrepresentative of our discipline in certain systematic respects. So instead I turned to the list of highly cited papers given by Google Scholar Metrics for twenty journal in the past five years. Then I used Web of Science to look up the most highly cited papers in those same journals for the years 1960-1999. The study proceeded by comparing the percentages of papers on various topics within the contemporary sample to the percentages in the 20th century sample. To get a sense for the point of this approach, it might be helpful to compare it to the approach of just looking at a few specific journals. Researchers who take that other approach clearly don't think that the papers they are examining are a complete set of the most philosophically important papers in a particular time period. Rather, their thought is that the papers in these journals offer a good sample of philosophically important work. In just the same way, it is clearly a mistake to suppose that the papers on the Google Scholar Metrics list are a complete set of the most highly cited papers in a specific time period. Rather, they offer a helpful sample of highly cited papers from a particular time. For researchers who want to understand how the discipline is changing over time, this can be a valuable resource. My sense is that the Google Scholar Metrics list provides a sample that is a bit less unrepresentative of our discipline than anything we could get just by taking a sample of papers from specific journals. However, I would of course be very open to considering other approaches that might be even more informative.
Just to clarify, this spreadsheet did not involve any decision-making on my part. It is simply the list of papers included in the "philosophy" subcategory of Google Scholar Metrics: The reason I originally put it together was that I was conducting a quantitative study about the kind of work people are generally doing these days in philosophy of mind. It does seem that this list can be helpful in addressing questions of that type, but for the reasons Tom Hurka gives, it obviously would not be at all helpful in comparing the influence of individual papers. (As I noted above, I created this thing as part of an attempt to conduct one specific study and never expected it to attract this broader interest.)
Some of you may be familiar with the controversy surrounding the hormone oxytocin. Some rather sensational work in popular science described it as the 'love hormone' and presented as a wellspring of empathy and interpersonal harmony. More recent work then offered a more complex picture, with oxytocin leading to prosocial... Continue reading
Posted Apr 30, 2015 at Flickers of Freedom
I have actually been very struck by the difference between philosophy and social psychology in this regard. Just as Inzlicht notes, there has been a lot of defensiveness in social psychology, with researchers whose findings fail to replicate striking back angrily at the replicators. By contrast, in the world of philosophy, one finds exactly the opposite. In every single case in which a philosopher's experimental work has failed to replicate, the philosopher has been very gracious about the whole issue and has even praised the replicators for their work. I am not sure what explains the difference, but perhaps it arises because philosophers have a well-established cultural norm according to which disagreement is just an ordinary part of the way research is done. The one thing I find slightly regrettable about the way things have proceeded in philosophy thus far is the difference between the reactions of the original researchers and the reactions of other philosophers interested in the issue. Though the original researchers have always graciously acknowledged the replication failure, there has been a disappointing tendency for other researchers just to continue citing the original experiment as though the replication failure had never taken place. So please, please, please, before you cite any research in experimental philosophy, take a look at Christian Mott's replications page: You can then see whether there have been any replication attempts and, if so, whether they have been successful.
The idea of using experiments to address philosophical questions has provoked heated debate in many areas of philosophy. However, if there is one area in which this approach has been completely uncontroversial, it is the field of formal semantics. This field unites researchers in philosophy and linguistics in an interdisciplinary... Continue reading
Posted Apr 3, 2015 at Experimental Philosophy
First off, a huge thank you to Gregg for all of his posts! This past month has been a really exciting one here at Flickers. Before we turn over to next month's author, I wanted to get people's thoughts on an issue that has been cropping up a lot in... Continue reading
Posted Mar 29, 2015 at Flickers of Freedom
Here. The piece provides a wonderfully entertaining review of recent experimental findings, especially the work of James Beebe and David Sackris, all framed as a rather brutal take-down of an article on moral relativism in the New York Times. Continue reading
Posted Mar 7, 2015 at Experimental Philosophy
If you are interested in experimental philosophy’s ‘negative program,’ I highly recommend Stephen Stich and Kevin Tobia’s new paper Experimental Philosophy and Philosophical Tradition. The paper provides a cutting-edge summary of where this research program is at right now, including a beautiful review of the relevant empirical data. Now, I... Continue reading
Posted Jan 2, 2015 at Experimental Philosophy
Last year, I put up a post about ten people doing experimental philosophy who had gotten jobs in the field. I just realized, however, that I was neglecting another source of new experimental philosophers -- people who had been doing experimental work in some other discipline but who then ended... Continue reading
Posted Dec 24, 2014 at Experimental Philosophy
One of the most exciting developments in experimental philosophy these days has been the surge of work on how people understand the self. Over the past few years, there have been a whole bunch of really interesting studies on personal identity, on the 'true self,' and on the way that... Continue reading
Posted Nov 19, 2014 at Experimental Philosophy