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2009-12-13
Effects of specialization
It's interesting to compare answers to a question between the whole target faculty population and those who work in the AOS associated with the question.  The biggest differences by far, unsurprisingly, concern theism and the philosophy of religion.  The next biggest differences are in decision theory (two boxing), philosophy of physical science (B-theory), philosophy of mathematics (Platonism).  Then epistemology (invariantism and to a lesser extent internalism), general philosophy of science (Humeanism), social and politlcal philosophy (egalitarianism), metaphysics (non-Humeanism).  And smaller differences in many other areas.

Of course those differences could be due to (i) specialists making better-grounded judgments, (ii) selection effects in entering the speciality, (iii) specialists' judgments corrupted by an insider literature, and various other sources.  I suspect that most philosophers will agree that each of these sources are at play in some cases, while they'll disagree about which are most at play in which cases!

Aesthetics: Specialists more likely to favor objective aesthetic value (44:15 vs 41:34).

Decision theory: Specialists more likely to favor two-boxing (61:26 vs 31:21).

Epistemology: Specialists more likely to favor a priori knowledge (78:14 vs 71:18), epistemic internalism (37:35 vs 26:43), skepticism (9:84:2 vs 5:82:4), invariantism (49:29:5 vs 31:40:3), rationalism (33:26 vs 28:35).

General Philosophy of Science: Specialists more likely to favor scientific anti-realism (16:60 vs 12:75), Humeanism about laws (41:49 vs 25:57).

Logic: Similar proportions on classical logic (57:24 vs 52:15).

Meta-ethics: Specialists more likely to favor cognitivism (75:14 vs 68:17).  Similar proportions on moral realism (56:26 vs 56:28) and moral internalism (44:36 vs 35:30).

Metaphilosophy: Specialists more likely to favor non-naturalism (38:38 vs 26:50).

Metaphysics: Specialists more likely to favor Platonism (51:32 vs 39:38), non-Humeanism (72:19 vs 57:25).  Fairly similar proportions on personal identity (33:18:17 vs 34:17:12),  teletransporter (39:38 vs 36:31), time (42:24 vs 26:15).

Normative ethics: Specialists more likely to favor deontology and less likely to favor virtue ethics (35:23:12 vs 26:24:18).  Similar proportions on trolley problem (80:10 vs 68:8).

Philosophy of action: Specialists more likely to be libertarians (19:53:12 vs 14:59:12).

Philosophy of language: Specialists more likely to favor invariantism (41:36:4 vs 31:40:3) and somewhat more likely to favor Millianism (42:33 vs 34:29). Similar on analytic-synthetic (65:29 vs 65:27), truth (52:25:3 vs 51:25:7).

Philosophy of mathematics: Specialists more likely to favor Platonism (60:20 vs 39:38).

Philosophy of mind: Specialists more likely to favor physicalism (61:22 vs 56:27), content externalism (57:18 vs 51:20), conceivability/impossibility and inconceivability of zombies (48:25:18 vs. 36:16:23) Similar on perception (43:17:17:4 vs 31:12:11:3).

Philosophy of physical science: Specialists more likely to favor B-theory (49:11 vs 26:15).

Philosophy of religion: Specialists more likely to favor theism (72:19 vs 15:73).

Social and political philosophy: Specialists more likely to favor egalitarianism (51:9:6 vs 35:14:10).

2009-12-14
Effects of specialization
By a quick count, the following positions led by more than 50% over the next most popular alternative: 

a priori knowledge,
analytic-synthetic distinction affirmed*,
epistemic externalism,
non-sceptical realism*,
empiricism*,
compatibilism,
atheism,
non-Humean laws of nature*,
classical logic*, 
externalist mental content,
moral realism*,
naturalism,
physicalism,
moral cognitivism*,
perceptual representationalism (assuming 'other' is not just one position)*,
psychological view of personal identity (ditto)*,
egalitarianism (ditto)*,
scientific realism*,
switch trolley line*,
correspondence theory of truth*.

The positions marked * correspond with what I would take to be the "common-sense" or pre-reflective view -- that's 13/20 of the above.  (Maybe another survey is needed to confirm my impression of what common-sense is.)  Four more positions (compatibilism, atheism, naturalism, physicalism) express the zeitgeist -- they are not "common-sense", but they fit into a broadly scientific world-view. 

That leaves, as positions in which philosophers are likely to differ from lay-people (at least those who have a broadly scientific world-view): a priori knowledge, epistemic externalism, and externalist mental content.  Is this evidence that Gettier and Kripke-Putnam are the most influential philosophers of the second half of the 20th century?

 

2009-12-14
Effects of specialization
While I agree that the % difference between specialists in philosophy of religion who favor theism and the large majority of philosophers who favor atheism is not surprising, I would be surprised if the justification for the difference did not split down 'party lines'. I suspect that the specialists in the philosophy of religion would overwhelmingly select (i) and (ii), while the target faculty population would overwhelmingly select (iii) as being the main reason for the specialist difference. One wonders if this would be due to the polarizing nature of the question, itself, or if it would be due to the mere fact that the question posed is one of the few in philosophy that every philosopher has (at some point) wrestled with?

My guess is that the specificity of the distinctions made in the questions regarding decision theory, philosophy of physical science, and philosophy of mathematics would explain not only the differences, but also what I assume would be a general unanimity among the target faculty population, along with the respective specialists regarding the justifications involved in (i) and (ii), as opposed to (iii).

I'm curious as to what others think on this.



2009-12-16
Effects of specialization
I'm surprised about non-classical logic; I expected non-logicians would be more likely to prefer classical logic.
While I agree that the % difference between specialists in philosophy of religion who favor theism and the large majority of philosophers who favor atheism is not surprising, I would be surprised if the justification for the difference did not split down 'party lines'. I suspect that the specialists in the philosophy of religion would overwhelmingly select (i) and (ii), while the target faculty population would overwhelmingly select (iii) as being the main reason for the specialist difference. One wonders if this would be due to the polarizing nature of the question, itself, or if it would be due to the mere fact that the question posed is one of the few in philosophy that every philosopher has (at some point) wrestled with?

It would be a good idea to get more evidence for this demographic claim before explaining why it's true.  (Time for yet another survey!)  I'm a committed atheist, and (ii) leapt out at me as the most likely explanation.  Questions about deities one doesn't believe in are generally going to look less interesting and important than questions about deities one does believe in.  (Of course, there will be individual exceptions involving anthropologically-minded atheists and unreflective theists, but as a generic claim about dispositions it's overwhelmingly plausible.)

Why lump (ii) together with (i)?  (i) strongly suggests that the view favored by specialists is well supported by the evidence, and (iii) strongly suggests that the view supported by specialists is ill supported by the evidence, which would make specialists likely to support (i) and those who disagree with most specialists likely to support (iii).  But (ii) is neutral: it doesn't tell you anything about the evidential support for the view in question.

2009-12-16
Effects of specialization
I work a good deal in philosophy of religion and there is no question in my mind that many people work in it because they are believers.
As they are also often very good philosophers, the atheists in the field tend to develop a healthy respect for theism,
even though I doubt that they change their mind. Us atheists are surrounded, as it were, by a lot of very sophisticated
and creative apologists for theism. The people I don't like are the New Atheists, because they don't seem to realize
that the people with whom I must contend even exist. 

2009-12-29
Effects of specialization
I agree with Jim. I wonder, though, how many voted in favor of theism had Judeo-Christian theism in mind versus, say, Spinozistic pantheism or Whiteheadian panentheism. I'm no specialist but contemporary philosophy of religion seems quite Judeo-Christocentric, which is, again, unsurprising but unfortunate. 

2010-06-11
Effects of specialization
The most startling result for me was that specialists in normative ethics are _less_ likely to favor virtue ethics. I guess I'd always viewed virtue-talk as the ultimate example of parochial jargon within this sub-field (though I'm actually sympathetic to the view myself). Where are all of these cheerfully Aristotelian aestheticians, epistemologists and philosophers of quantum mechanics? I must be going to the wrong parties.

2010-06-12
Effects of specialization
Reply to Mark Silcox
The most startling thing to me is that anyone can place any importance on these results beyond a kind of trivial curiosity value.

Take for example: "Philosophy of religion: Specialists more likely to favor theism (72:19 vs 15:73).

Now what conclusions might we draw from this "finding"? 

That "theism" (whatever that is exactly - and no doubt there will be dozens of different definitions among respondents) is correct?

That "theism" is more likely to be correct?  (So we should all perhaps start worshipping a "theistic" god just in case - though which one could be a problem).

That "specialists" are more likely to be familiar with, and understand, arguments in favour of theism than those in favour of Buddhism or say the religion of the Aztecs - which they may know little or nothing about ?

That "specialists" are less likely to be able to experience a genuine, profound sense of the sacred, and the closest they can get to religion is the watered down, rationalised form called "theism"?

That the worst way to approach religion is to become a philosophical specialist in the subject - because one is likely to end up a theist?

That if you want to "specialize" in religion you'd better study theism because that's where the crowd is going.

No doubt there are other possibilities as well.

DA