What do philosophers believe?

Philosophical Studies 170 (3):465-500 (2014)
What are the philosophical views of contemporary professional philosophers? We surveyed many professional philosophers in order to help determine their views on 30 central philosophical issues. This article documents the results. It also reveals correlations among philosophical views and between these views and factors such as age, gender, and nationality. A factor analysis suggests that an individual's views on these issues factor into a few underlying components that predict much of the variation in those views. The results of a metasurvey also suggest that many of the results of the survey are surprising: philosophers as a whole have quite inaccurate beliefs about the distribution of philosophical views in the profession.
Keywords Metaphilosophy  Disagreement  Survey  Correlations  Philosophy  PhilPapers
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Reprint years 2014
DOI 10.1007/s11098-013-0259-7
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There  are 8 threads in this forum
Occasionally I have been asked by students what I myself believe, especially when it come to more sensitive topics dealing with a  religious outlook.  My answer typically is that I do not want to influence their own classroom discussion by intruding my personal outlook.  In this way I can continue to play Socrates,constantly challenging positions put forward without having to defend any stand of my own.

The truth of the matter, though, is that I am very uncomfortable with that term "belief."  Again, in the classroom, I will often cite as an axiom the idea from William James that beliefs are rules for action so that the content of a belief matters less to me than how it determines someone's behavior.  Consequently, I am far less interested in many of the standard debates dealing with metaphysical or epistemological issues than I am with discussions involving ethics and political theory.   At the same time, though, I understand full well that there are certa ... (read more)
Latest replies: Permanent link: https://philpapers.org/post/7763 Reply

What possible significance could this article have? I'm surprised that it has even been accepted for publication. If it is publishable anywhere, it belongs in a sociology journal. Its methods are sociological, not philosophical, and terminally flawed by their lack of comprehensiveness with regard to formulating the survey.

Its questions are simplistic, dichotomous, and non-exhaustive. Moreover, many of these dichotomies are false, e.g., "analytic" vs. "continental" juxtaposes a conceptual category with a geographical category, i.e., it should be either "analytic" vs. "speculative" or "Anglo-American" vs. "continental."

Another example: "Theistic" vs. "atheistic" made me laugh. There are just so many other unmentioned options here. Maybe the high-school-educated-person-in-the-street could answer that question, but how could a philosopher answer it?
Latest replies: Permanent link: https://philpapers.org/post/7747 Reply

Dear authors,

Thank you for this very interesting and illuminative paper and a chance to get acquainted with it. I'm interested in one particular moment. How many philosophers did describe themselves as a 'followers' of Wittgenstein? I'm investigating the problem of unpopularity of Wittgenstein in contemporary Analytic philosophy and I would very appreciate if you could make the result of your survey on the question stated above available.

Thank you in advance.

Sincerely yours,
Iurii Kozik
Latest replies: Permanent link: https://philpapers.org/post/7753 Reply

One of the correlations I find interesting in the survey is of a predominance (among the target group) of atheists with a predominance of moral cognitivists. This conforms to the several books that have come out in the last decade by so-called New Atheists who nevertheless continue staunchly to defend morality (and often as well their particular moral take on things). While the correlation in the survey is therefore not surprising to me, it is surprising to me in a kind of normative sense, in that I have latterly come to see morality as but a relic of "that old time religion." Of course the correlation has an honored and ancient pedigree, beginning with Plato's "Euthyphro." But isn't it about time that the analytic consensus moved towards a robust moral abolitionism, in the manner of, say, Richard Garner, rather than forever attempting to salvage a way of speaking that perpetuates attitudes we seem more than happy to discard in the case of religion?
Latest replies: Permanent link: https://philpapers.org/post/7772 Reply


This may be a commonplace in statistical science, but it came as a pleasant surprise to me to see "It is surprising" operationally defined in this paper, namely as reaching a level of dashed expectation by philosophers who took the metasurvey. "It is surprising" is one of countless expressions that, in my view, are used to subtly and illicitly but powerfully and even unawares used to bring others around to seeing things the way oneself does. I described an example in this passage: 

The point I want to make in the present chapter is that the natural tendency to objectify what is essentially subjective is pervasive in our experience, even beyond morality. Consider the seemingly innocuous sentence, “The results were surprising,” which I quote from a book about the physiology and psychology of marine animals. The context is the discussion of an experiment to determine whether crustaceans can feel pain. The subjects were hermit crabs living inside abandoned snail shells that had been outfitt ... (read more)

The majority of the correlational research published in the experimental psychology journals is based on correlations with r values ranging from .40 upwards. According to the authors of the popular elementary book Psychology—Gleitman, Gross, and Reisberg—these numbers reflect relationships strong enough to produce recognizable patterns in the data. When we are working with r values much less than .40, we begin to grasp at straws. However rock solid the inferential statistical analysis in this paper, the foundation of the inferences is the correlations. When we have correlations that are drastically below the r values acceptable for publication in the experimental journals, one should seriously question what to make of inferential analyses of them. Using inferential statistics to make any broad claims based on such low r values is bad, and I worry that people unacquainted with statistical research will use the analysis provided in the paper for more than satisfying their curiosity. If&n ... (read more)

I must commend you both on a well written and superbly organized piece. Though I must confess I did not read the entirety of the work (Due largely to the fact that I am still a neophyte as it pertains to the majority of philosophical concepts surveyed among the participants.) it is clear that you two put forth much effort and time into this piece. What I actually did want to discuss though were two particular results that captured my interest. The first being that 72.8% of respondents are Atheist. Now doing the math, we see that 72.8% of the 931 philosophers who responded to this survey equates to 678 people rounding up. Though I did not formally submit a survey I belong to this camp. These results are surely indicative that philosophical thought has all but breezed past the likes of Kant, Spinoza, Aquinas, etc.
     The result that I found far more fascinating and admittedly somewhat perplexing, was the popularity of Egalitarianism. 34.8% of people partake in Egalit ... (read more)

I have only just skimmed the paper. I noticed that det/indeterminism is not a category. Is this because determinism is viewed as subsumed under the other categories (free will, physicalism, laws of nature, etc)? 
Again, I have only just skimmed the paper, so there may be discussion on this I missed. 

Kind regards,
Clint Ballinger 

(I am interested as your work will be very useful when I get the chance to update "Determinism and the Antiquated Deontology of the Social Sciences

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