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Shen-yi Liao
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Over at Feminist Philosophers, Dan Hicks casually mentions in a comment: I haven’t had too many interactions with folks interested in experimental philosophy, but based on those interactions it seems like (1) x-phi folks are modeling their methods explicitly on these kinds of studies in psychology, while (2) not being... Continue reading
Posted Jun 5, 2015 at Experimental Philosophy
Like many other areas of the social sciences, experimental philosophy is nowadays heavily fueled by Amazon Mechanical Turk. (This blog certainly helped with that too!) So I thought it might be helpful to consider the state of Amazon Mechanical Turk, for both experimental philosophers and critics of experimental philosophy. (By... Continue reading
Posted May 8, 2015 at Experimental Philosophy
Race and Aesthetics: A British Society of Aesthetics Connections Conference May 19th and 20th, 2015 Leeds, UK CALL FOR PAPERS (Please note the revised submission deadline and format.) We invite papers that are on the conference themes: the psychological, political, and methodological intersections between philosophical studies of race and aesthetics.... Continue reading
Posted Feb 16, 2015 at Discrimination and Disadvantage
I like nifty tricks that I can use in data exploration and analysis. Here is one that I just came across today: Daniel Lakens used a simulation to illustrate why you should always report Welch's t-test, which does not assume equal variance, and not Student's t-test -- even when using... Continue reading
Posted Jan 26, 2015 at Experimental Philosophy
(2) seems like an excellent objection against omnibus rankings. I am not even sure PGR is intended to be that, though it certainly often gets used as such--arguably contrary to its stated aim and methodology. However, (2) does not seem like a good objection against highly-restricted, explicitly-stated, uni-dimensional rankings, e.g. a ranking on the likelihood of programs' placements of graduates into tenure-track jobs within three years. My own view is that we should have a proliferation of uni-dimensional rankings that allow prospective students to mix and match according to their preferences. It's also hard to see how such rankings would devalue people's works. A proliferation of such rankings would also prevent people from mistakenly thinking that any one is supposed to be a general ranking of departments.
On psychologist Simine Vazire's always-excellent blog, sometimes i'm wrong, there is an excerpt from John Doris's forthcoming book that reacts to #repligate. Doris makes many important points about how philosophers should respond to this episode in psychology, such as not relying too much on any single study, including any single... Continue reading
Posted Sep 22, 2014 at Experimental Philosophy
Have you ever wondered how you can calculate 95% confidence interval for effect sizes in SPSS? Have you ever wondered how many participants you need to achieve 80% power for a 2 IV SEM in Tetrad? Well, I have. And when I had those questions, I really wished there was... Continue reading
Posted Sep 4, 2014 at Experimental Philosophy
Many readers of this blog have probably already seen the latest issue of Emotion Review, which features Nina Strohminger's review of Colin McGinn's book on disgust. There is also a terrific set of commentaries that expand on the themes prompted by Strohminger's review. In particular, David Pizzaro's commentary is focused... Continue reading
Posted Jun 18, 2014 at Experimental Philosophy
Thanks to Nicole Wyatt for bringing the Calgary case to light!
Experimental philosophers aim to use empirical methods to inform philosophical enquiries. Since many of the early, prominent, influential works make heavy use of the contrastive vignette technique, it is easy -- especially for those already hostile to experimental philosophy -- to think that experimental philosophers don't do anything but CVT... Continue reading
Posted Nov 29, 2013 at Experimental Philosophy
Hi Edouard, The philosophy of language papers is very interesting. It's definitely worthwhile to think whether and how philosophical intuitions are like linguistic intuitions. However, it is not obvious to me why syntactic intuitions are suitable comparisons for philosophical intuitions. Grammaticality judgments don't seem to be anything like responses to thought experiments. For one, if Chomsky's right, then grammaticality has the kind of innateness that philosophical intuitions typically lack. For another, linguists need not claim themselves to be the relevant experts, as philosophers do. I'm sure a Taiwanese linguist would agree that an ordinary native English speaker's grammaticality judgment is more reliable than hers. So it is puzzling to me why the methodology appropriate for syntax research would offer any guide to the methodology appropriate for philosophical research. The article does not spell out the link in detail. If anything, semantic intuitions seem to be better comparisons, especially since philosophy of language more frequently overlap with semantics (see, e.g., the recent literature on epistemic modals) than syntax. But there, as you note in the article, less experimental research is done, compared to in syntax. More importantly, a recent paper provides experimental support for the traditional semanticist methodology. The authors say, "We conclude that there is no empirical, logical, or statistical reason to think that the informal experiments routinely performed by linguists are unreliable. In fact, we show evidence that these experiments might be, in some circumstances, much more powerful than formal experiments with naïve participants." ( So I am wondering how your claims would comport with this result.
Hi Jonathan, Thanks for the thoughts! Let me take them in reverse order. You're totally right about the name of the Taylor Swift song. I am now doubly-ashamed. You're also right that we employ a relatively simplistic conception of moral defect, on which anything that people intuitively find morally bad counts as a moral defect. I should say, however, that this relatively simplistic conception is often employed by philosophers in this debate, especially the early stages. So our results still address their views. James Harold has a great recent article, "Immoralism and the Valence Constraint" (2008 BJA) that documents and criticizes past uses of the relatively simplistic conception, and advocates for a more sophisticated conception. On his more sophisticated conception, which seems to be what you have in mind too, a work is morally virtuous if it allows for rich, complex responses --- if it makes us think about morality in a deep way. On the flip side, a work is morally defective if it only allows for impoverished, simple responses. So, on this conception, all preachy lyrics, regardless of their content, would count as morally defective. Our results don't speak to this more sophisticated conception, but I think it's a fantastic idea for us to look at it next. Finally, I think your first comment brings up a lot of interesting concerns. I think the best way for us to address the worry is to ask more questions to get at people's aesthetic and moral judgments of the song. Still, it's a very intriguing idea that some lyrics can express AND endorse an immoral perspective in one genre (say, folk ballad) but only express and not endorse an immoral perspective in another genre (say, hip hop). That might be a way for the moralist to account for genre-sensitivity while preserving their central claim. I'll have to think about this one more!
Hey Adam, Thanks for the comments. As I understand it, here are the two worries: 1. "More appealing" in our probe is not as obviously aesthetic as other alternative, such as "sounds better". 2. If people are only trying to "match" the lyrics and the music, then their judgments are not indicative of the aesthetic value of the work. These are legitimate concerns, and I'm really glad you brought them up! I have some theory-heavy replies for now, but further studies investigating these concerns are definitely warranted. Re: 1. I worry that "sounds better" will bring up a notion that is more subjective than what is required for our philosophical conclusions. In contrast, "appealing" seems to me less subjective, more normative, and closer to what philosophers mean by "aesthetically good". Without presupposing robust realism, I think we can still distinguish calling something aesthetically good from just saying that we like something. Think of guilty pleasures. I like Taylor Swift's song "Sixteen"---it just sounds good to me---but I don't think it is aesthetically good. So, my worry is actually the opposite of yours: that "sounds better" would only track the kind of subjective liking that lacks the normativity of aesthetic evaluations. That said, I am still inclined to try "sounds better" to see how the results turn out. Other possibilities include "aesthetically better" or "artistically better", but I worry that some people won't understand the former and will inappropriately bring in a notion of high art or fine art into the latter. Do you have suggestions for other ways to phrase the probe? Re: 2. It might be that people are using their folk sociological judgments, but I think this would be okay if we think that the features that are normal for a genre tend also to be aesthetically good. It would be somewhat strange if some feature is normal for a certain genre but is not considered aesthetically good in the context of that genre. Why would the feature be normal then? At the very least, I think normal features serve as a defeasible guide to what is aesthetically good in the context of the genre. (Of course, I am not saying that atypical works are never aesthetically good.) Suppose what I've said about normality and aesthetic value is on the right track. Then even if the folk are using sociological judgments, what they are really doing is deferring to the experts---the people who are familiar with the genre and in a better position to say what is aesthetically good. On this picture, folk sociological judgments would still track the aesthetic value of the work.