Great Minds do not Think Alike: Philosophers’ Views Predicted by Reflection, Education, Personality, and Other Demographic Differences

Review of Philosophy and Psychology 14 (Cultural Variation in Cognition):647-684 (2023)
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Prior research found correlations between reflection test performance and philosophical tendencies among laypeople. In two large studies (total N = 1299)—one pre-registered—many of these correlations were replicated in a sample that included both laypeople and philosophers. For example, reflection test performance predicted preferring atheism over theism and instrumental harm over harm avoidance on the trolley problem. However, most reflection-philosophy correlations were undetected when controlling for other factors such as numeracy, preferences for open-minded thinking, personality, philosophical training, age, and gender. Nonetheless, some correlations between reflection and philosophical views survived this multivariate analysis and were only partially confounded with either education or self-reported reasoning preferences. Unreflective thinking still predicted believing in God whereas reflective thinking still predicted believing that (a) proper names like ‘Santa’ do not necessarily refer to entities that actually exist and (b) science does reveal the fundamental nature of the world. So some robust relationships between reflection and philosophical tendencies were detected even among philosophers, and yet there was clearly more to the link between reflection and philosophy. To this end, demographic and metaphilosophical hypotheses are considered.

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Nick Byrd
Stevens Institute of Technology

References found in this work

What do philosophers believe?David Bourget & David J. Chalmers - 2014 - Philosophical Studies 170 (3):465-500.
Fact, Fiction, and Forecast.Nelson Goodman - 1965 - Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
The Philosophy of Philosophy.Timothy Williamson - 2007 - Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.

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