Saving the armchair by experiment: what works in economics doesn’t work in philosophy

Philosophical Studies 178 (8):2483-2508 (2020)
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Financial incentives, learning, group consultation, and increased experimental control are among the experimental techniques economists have successfully used to deflect the behavioral challenge posed by research conducted by such scholars as Tversky and Kahneman. These techniques save the economic armchair to the extent that they align laypeople judgments with economic theory by increasing cognitive effort and reflection in experimental subjects. It is natural to hypothesize that a similar strategy might work to address the experimental or restrictionist challenge to armchair philosophy. To test this hypothesis, a randomized controlled experiment was carried out, as well as two lab experiments. Three types of knowledge attribution tasks were used. No support for the hypothesis was found. The paper describes the close similarities between the economist’s response to the behavioral challenge, and the expertise defense against the experimental challenge, and presents the experiments, results, and an array of robustness checks. The upshot is that these results make the experimental challenge all the more forceful.



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Boudewijn de Bruin
University of Groningen

References found in this work

The Philosophy of Philosophy.Timothy Williamson - 2007 - Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.
Is Justified True Belief Knowledge?Edmund Gettier - 1963 - Analysis 23 (6):121-123.
On the psychology of prediction.Daniel Kahneman & Amos Tversky - 1973 - Psychological Review 80 (4):237-251.

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