What is experimental philosophy?
The Philosophers' Magazine 28:37-39 (2004)
Since the earliest days of analytic philosophy, it has been a common practice to appeal to intuitions about particular cases. Typically, the philosopher presents a hypothetical situation and then makes a claim of the form: ‘In this case, we would surely say....’ This claim about people’s intuitions then forms a part of an argument for some more general theory about the nature of our concepts or our use of language. One puzzling aspect of this practice is that it so rarely makes use of standard empirical methods. Although philosophers quite frequently make claims about ‘what people would ordinarily say,’ they rarely back up those claims by actually asking people and looking for patterns in their responses. In recent years, however, a number of philosophers have tried to put claims about intuitions to the test, using experimental methods to figure out what people really think about particular hypothetical cases. At times, the results have been extremely surprising. Here I discuss applications of this new methodology to three areas of philosophy — the philosophy of language, the theory of action, and the free will debate
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