On the nature of thought experiments and a core motivation of experimental philosophy

Philosophical Psychology 23 (4):547-564 (2010)
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In this paper I discuss some underlying motivations common to most strands of experimental philosophy, noting that most forms of experimental philosophy have a commitment to the claim that certain empirical evidence concerning the level of agreement on intuitive judgments across cultures, ethnic groups or socioeconomic strata impugns the role that intuitions play in traditional “armchair” philosophy. I then develop an argument to suggest that, even if one were to grant the truth of the data adduced by experimentalists regarding the level of agreement—or lack thereof—regarding intuitive judgments among various groups, this would nevertheless not yet provide sufficient basis to reject the role of intuitions in traditional philosophical theorizing. Though this argument, if successful, will not prove fatal to all forms of experimental philosophy, it would limit the scope of experimental philosophical criticisms of traditional philosophical practice



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Joseph Shieber
Lafayette College