General forum:

Back    All discussions

2009-12-08
Eye-openers in the Survey results?
Personally, I was most surprised by the results on content internalism/externalism and the analytic/synthetic distinction. Internalism is in much worse shape than I thought, and the analytic/synthetic distinction in a much better shape. If we can take these results at face value, that is.

2009-12-08
Any eye-opener in the Survey or Metasurvey results?
Reply to David Bourget
Well, "internalism" is ambiguous between (inter alia) the theses that all content is internal, that some content is internal, and that the most important content is internal.  Same for "externalism".  But a very common reading is that "externalism" is the thesis that some content is external.  In that sense, the large majority of philosophers are externalists, and the debate is roughly between those who think that there is also a (more?) important internal dimension of content and those who do not.  Some people in the first group will call themselves "internalists" despite also accepting external content (I did), others will call themselves externalists, while others will give other responses such as "Accept both" or "Accept an intermediate view" (I note that 8% give the last two other responses).  From that perspective, the Survey results don't look so bad for the thesis that there is an important internal dimension of content, although of course they look bad for the thesis that there is no external content.

As for the analytic/synthetic distinction, it's worth noting that quite a few people said "yes" while also noting in the comments that they don't think the distinction does important philosophical work.

2009-12-09
Any eye-opener in the Survey or Metasurvey results?
Hi!
Related findings that I found particularly interesting to the internalism/externalism results were those on the question of representationalism and qualia theory etc. In this case, the mean estimate for representationalism only had a mean error of 1.4%, and against the category for 'other' was the most favored explanation for perceptual experience. Qualia theory it seems fell short quite considerably. Zombies as 'conceivable but not metaphysically possible' is the most favored position at 35.6%, showing that whilst most endorse their logical possibility, the metaphysical possibility is denied. I like the fact that the two results are consistent with each other, (in relation to what the Zombie argument sets out to achieve regarding Qualia). I'd like to have insight to the 'other' alternatives to perceptual content that people suggested, this would be really telling.
Perhaps it would be useful in the future to include some answer corresponding to the extended mind thesis, seeing as this is a popular counterexample to representationalism and qualia theory if taken all the way. 

One final note, I think the surveys are a fantastic idea that should prove useful in research. Having a tool to consolidate opinions on the big philosophical questions is a welcome way to see what people really think!


2009-12-09
Eye-openers in the Survey results?
Reply to David Bourget
I was surprised that only 17% are non-cognitivists about moral judgments.  If moral judgments are mental states, then it is plausible that some of them are affective states (as opposed to, for example, belief states).  Isn't that a kind of non-cognitivism about moral judgments?  Or do you have to hold that all moral judgments are affective states?

2009-12-09
Eye-openers in the Survey results?
Berit, I think usually the discussion of cognitivism and non-cognitivism presupposes that all moral judgements are the same kind of state: belief-like, desire-like or (for anti-Humeans) both. So I think the survey question on cognitivism/non-cognitivism about moral judgement was on safer ground than for example the empiricism/rationalism question. But in principle I think you are right: one could be a cognitivist about some and a non-cognitivist about other moral judgements.

2009-12-09
Eye-openers in the Survey results?
Reply to David Bourget
David B: I don't really see what the number of philosophers who happen to hold a doctrine has to do with whether that doctrine itself is in bad shape or not. If it's the truth then it's not in bad shape at all. To my mind there are glaring examples in this survey of ideas (at least) rather close to the truth which only the barest minority of contemporary philosophers would admit to holding, even given anonymity. Not a surprise, given the reigning ideologies of our age.

2009-12-09
Eye-openers in the Survey results?
Reply to Max Kölbel
Hi Max. That makes sense!  I would just have thought that it would be obvious to treat some moral judgments as affective states.  Recall when Lecter in Hannibal cuts out a piece of the fully conscious Krendler's brain (after opening his skull), sautees it and feeds it to Krendler?  That still induces a strong negative reaction in me.  My initial negative reaction is clearly an affective state.  The belief that this is wrong comes later.  I would say that the affective state is a basic moral judgment.  But maybe the consensus among cognitivists is that those affective states are not moral judgments.

2009-12-12
Eye-openers in the Survey results?
Reply to David Bourget
It should not be surprising that persons who make their livings pushing symbols and clarifying arguments would tend toward cognitivism about everything, especially morality!  Which recalls Rousseau's criticism, that no one has an easier time neglecting the sufferings of one's fellows than a philosopher, easily shuttering himself away with a casual distinction.  Moral theories altogether serve all-too-often as shutters in just this way.  To my mind, however, this disposition is itself due to a feeling, the feeling of control that comes when convinced that it is important that moral judgments, including moral implications of everyday actions, are consistent with post hoc rationalizations rather than the messy meat and bones that motivate them.  On a side note, especially in light of David's clarification, it would be interesting to see the correlation between internalism and non-cognitivism...  I would think it very high.

2009-12-12
Eye-openers in the Survey results?
Reply to Jeffrey White
Hi Jeffrey, yes I would be interested in seeing the correlation between internalism and non-cognitivism, though one can obviously hold one without the other.  As for your other point: though I lean towards non-cognitivism for all moral judgments, I think there might be some who are sympathetic to the points you are raising but who still hold that moral judgments (the mental states) have belief-like content and a belief-like phenomenology. 

2009-12-13
Eye-openers in the Survey results?
Reply to David Bourget
Professor Brogaard;
I suppose I should make one issue clear, and then invite you to discuss this at greater length - if you are so inclined - in a more appropriate forum, as this one may not be that...
Frankly, I do not believe in beliefs.  To steal a phrase from Stevan Harnad: Belief is a weasel word.  And, equally frankly, belief-like is even more weaselly.  From whence do beliefs arise?  Two places.
One, from feelings, recurrent, reinforced, and answering to a sort of variable space that opens in our neural networks to pin-down seeming regularities in order to make action more efficient.  It is know-that from know-how.  Know-how has to do with engagements, and along with that some orientation in the space of the objects with which one engages, these or those being good or bad as either assumed or proven through experience, grounds the value attached to objects about which there is so much talk.
Which brings us to the second source of 'beliefs.'  From others via language and demonstration, which traces back, of course, just to someone else's (presumed) feelings.  Thus, to say belief is only to say "know-that," so far as I can tell.  And to emphasize "know-that" over "know-how" only returns us to my original point, re symbol pushing argument refiners.  Although, to this I will add the observation that the ivory tower is effectively an experiential vacuum.  Added to this the genuine lack of know-how attributable to the vast majority of both reigning and aspiring philosophy faculty (Whitehead, let alone Wittgenstein or Peirce, no longer represent life-paths encouraged for future and practicing philosophers) and we see only added leverage motivating the original point.


2009-12-13
Eye-openers in the Survey results?
Reply to Jeffrey White
Jeffrey, it would be interesting to discuss these issues in further detail elsewhere.  Let me just add that by 'belief-like content' I just meant that the content is truth-evaluable, and by 'belief-like phenomenology' I just meant that the phenomenology is neither sensory/proprioceptive nor affective.  Whether or not there are beliefs will partially depend on how we define the term 'belief'.  There certainly are higher-level cognitive processes which guide decision-making and reasoning.

2009-12-14
Eye-openers in the Survey results?
Reply to David Bourget
I was most surprised about the fact that only 1/6 of the participants were women (totally just 488 of 3013 who specified their gender).
Philosophy still seems to be a domain of men and I wonder what could possibly done to increase the amount of women in philosophy
(if there is something left to be done at all).

2009-12-16
Eye-openers in the Survey results?
Well, it's not too surprising, given that there are only about 20% women in the target group and less in the discipline as a whole.  So, the numbers just reflect what philosophy is like.  However, I agree with you that it is very unfortunate that there are so few women in philosophy.

2009-12-16
Eye-openers in the Survey results?
Hi Berit, do you know of any good source to confirm the 20% figure? That would be handy. I wonder also about the distribution at the level of undergraduates and grad students---the survey had a lot more men responding from these groups as well, but I thought "new generations" were showing a more equal distribution. 

2009-12-16
Eye-openers in the Survey results?
Reply to David Bourget
Hi David, wow - that surprises me once more.
You say this unbalanced male/female rate is mirrored in the undergraduate section as well?! So I give up all hope of that it will get better in my generation...

2009-12-16
Eye-openers in the Survey results?
Reply to Sam Coleman
Hear! Hear!

To repeat a comment I made in another context on another thread (which may go further than Sam would want): "...it wouldn't matter to me if the consensus were 999,999 out of 1,000,000, or more; I would still not agree. One doesn't decide philosophical arguments on the numbers. Leave that to the politicians."

Which of course raises the question of the point of the questionnaire - and taking that thought a step further, whether an exercise of that kind does not subtly reinforce the idea that a good philosopher will always have an eye on the numbers...

(The answer to this by the way is not that one should be interested in what others think, and can benefit from their ideas. Of course one should and can. But that is what research is for.) 

DA

2009-12-16
Eye-openers in the Survey results?
Reply to Derek Allan
Derek, see this page for an extensive discussion of the point of the survey and related questions and criticisms. 

2009-12-17
Eye-openers in the Survey results?
Reply to David Bourget
Hi David, a lot has been published on various weblogs on this.  I will try to look for something more comprehensive, but here are the stats for the top-20 departments in 2009 Leiter Report:

https://wikis.mit.edu/confluence/pages/viewpage.action?pageId=42243226

2009-12-17
Eye-openers in the Survey results?
Reply to David Bourget
Hi David, I found a couple of more comprehensive blog posts.  Evelyn Brister reports that the number of women in philosophy is just below 21%.  She did a rough count by gender of the names appearing in the APA's membership directory in 2004.  She also compared her findings to other stats which suggest that there are just below 21% women in philosophy.  I think the numbers are lower than 21% if you include the numbers from community colleges and other forms of employment for philosophers.  But I will have to see if I can find posts that discuss this.  The other posts, also by Evelyn Brister, discuss related issues (women who earned a Ph.D. in philosophy, women who earned a bachelor's degree, etc.).

http://knowledgeandexperience.blogspot.com/2007/12/women-in-philosophy-data-on-professors.html

http://knowledgeandexperience.blogspot.com/2007/11/women-are-not-earning-more-philosophy.html

http://knowledgeandexperience.blogspot.com/2007/11/bachelors-degrees-in-philosophy-by-sex.html

http://knowledgeandexperience.blogspot.com/2007/12/why-arent-there-more-women-in.html

2009-12-17
Any eye-opener in the Survey or Metasurvey results?
David (C), I can't help feeling that the latter understanding of the internalism-externalism divide is  quite odd. Surely, already Putnam granted that there is an important internal ingredient in the content, namely the stereotype. And Devitt writes ('Meanings just ain't in the head". 1990): "First, it is not a consequence that no aspect of meaning is in the head. The point of the slogan is simply to deny that meanings are entirely in the head. In my view, the meaning of a term is likely to involve many psychological states; so the brain in the vat can have a rich set of proto-thoughts. The slogan emphasizes that extra-cranal links to reality are also necessary for meaning.“
So the classification would entail that such paradigmatic externalists as Putnam and Devitt, for example, are internalists. So who would there be left in the externalist side? 

2009-12-17
Eye-openers in the Survey results?
Reply to David Bourget
Yes, David, I was aware of this discussion.  It does not answer my objection. It only reinforces it.

You say for example "survey votes are likely to be a poor guide to philosophical truth."  But votes are not simply "a poor guide".  They are absolutely no guide at all to philosophical truth. That was the point of my objection.  And a danger of the the survey, I suggested, was that it might encourage some people to think it does constitute some sort of guide, even a poor one.

Your example - the hypothetical philosopher who doesn't refer to a particular argument because she thinks a majority of philosophers don't accept it, when in fact they do - does nothing to reassure me.  The moral I would draw from this is that the philosopher concerned should be encouraged to think for herself, and to argue her own point of view irrespective of what the majority might think. Putting survey results at her disposal is only likely to encourage the "group think" attitude that seems to have influenced her.

If this is what the "sociology of philosophy" is about, I would recommend scrapping it, post haste.

DA


2009-12-17
Any eye-opener in the Survey or Metasurvey results?
Panu: I take it that many paradigmatic externalists deny that there is narrow content:  Burge, Davidson, Dretske, Fodor (these days), Millikan,  and Stalnaker come to mind as likely candidates, though I can't quote chapter and verse for each.  Of course the Putnam of 1975 had a relatively conservative externalist view by current standards, but I take it that his own views have evolved since then too.

2009-12-18
Any eye-opener in the Survey or Metasurvey results?
David: They may well do, but I think that is a much more specific, technical issue, and does not show that if you don't, you're an internalist (the label "internalism" was, after all, introduced by Searle for the view, pace Putnam, that meanings *are* in the head; that it is *all* internal.) But be that as it may, this too shows that an unexplained use of various -isms is potentially confusing - and people may have had, in taking the survey, very different interpretations of what, say, Internalism, Platonism, Millianism, Fregeanism, etc. really mean... (and several on-line discussions of the survey seem to confirm that). What I would prefer, if you'll do it again in the future, is more explicit definitions of the views at stake rather than such vague labels.