In this paper we propose to argue for two claims. The first is that a sizeable group of epistemological projects – a group which includes much of what has been done in epistemology in the analytic tradition – would be seriously undermined if one or more of a cluster of empirical hypotheses about epistemic intuitions turns out to be true. The basis for this claim will be set out in Section 2. The second claim is that, while the jury is (...) still out, there is now a substantial body of evidence suggesting that some of those empirical hypotheses are true. Much of this evidence derives from an ongoing series of experimental studies of epistemic intuitions that we have been conducting. A preliminary report on these studies will be presented in Section 3. In light of these studies, we think it is incumbent on those who pursue the epistemological projects in question to either explain why the truth of the hypotheses does not undermine their projects, or to say why, in light of the evidence we will present, they nonetheless assume that the hypotheses are false. In Section 4, which is devoted to Objections and Replies, we’ll consider some of the ways in which defenders of the projects we are criticizing might reply to our challenge. Our goal, in all of this, is not to offer a conclusive argument demonstrating that the epistemological projects we will be criticizing are untenable. Rather, our aim is to shift the burden of argument. (shrink)
Recent experimental philosophy arguments have raised trouble for philosophers' reliance on armchair intuitions. One popular line of response has been the expertise defense: philosophers are highly-trained experts, whereas the subjects in the experimental philosophy studies have generally been ordinary undergraduates, and so there's no reason to think philosophers will make the same mistakes. But this deploys a substantive empirical claim, that philosophers' training indeed inculcates sufficient protection from such mistakes. We canvass the psychological literature on expertise, which indicates that people (...) are not generally very good at reckoning who will develop expertise under what circumstances. We consider three promising hypotheses concerning what philosophical expertise might consist in: (i) better conceptual schemata; (ii) mastery of entrenched theories; and (iii) general practical know-how with the entertaining of hypotheticals. On inspection, none seem to provide us with good reason to endorse this key empirical premise of the expertise defense. (shrink)
It has been standard philosophical practice in analytic philosophy to employ intuitions generated in response to thought-experiments as evidence in the evaluation of philosophical claims. In part as a response to this practice, an exciting new movement—experimental philosophy—has recently emerged. This movement is unified behind both a common methodology and a common aim: the application of methods of experimental psychology to the study of the nature of intuitions. In this paper, we will introduce two different views concerning the relationship that (...) holds between experimental philosophy and the future of standard philosophical practice (what we call, the proper foundation view and the restrictionist view), discuss some of the more interesting and important results obtained by proponents of both views, and examine the pressure these results put on analytic philosophers to reform standard philosophical practice. We will also defend experimental philosophy from some recent objections, suggest future directions for work in experimental philosophy, and suggest what future lines of epistemological response might be available to those wishing to defend analytic epistemology from the challenges posed by experimental philosophy. (shrink)
Using empirical evidence to attack intuitions can be epistemically dangerous, because various of the complaints that one might raise against them (e.g., that they are fallible; that we possess no non-circular defense of their reliability) can be raised just as easily against perception itself. But the opponents of intuition wish to challenge intuitions without at the same time challenging the rest of our epistemic apparatus. How might this be done? Let us use the term “hopefulness” to refer to the extent (...) to which we possess a good capacity for the detection and correction of the errors of any fallible source of evidence. I argue that we should not trust putative sources of evidence that are substantially lacking in hopefulness (even if they are basically reliable), and that we are indeed already operating under such a norm in our ordinary and scientific practices. I argue further that the philosophical practice of the appeal to intuitions is, in these terms, badly hopeless... (shrink)
Throughout the 20th century, an enormous amount of intellectual fuel was spent debating the merits of a class of skeptical arguments which purport to show that knowledge of the external world is not possible. These arguments, whose origins can be traced back to Descartes, played an important role in the work of some of the leading philosophers of the 20th century, including Russell, Moore and Wittgenstein, and they continue to engage the interest of contemporary philosophers. (e.g., Cohen 1999, DeRose 1995, (...) Hill 1996, Klein 1981, Lewis 1996, McGinn 1993, Nozick 1981, Schiffer 1996, Unger 1975, Williams 1996) Typically, these arguments make use of one or more premises which the philosophers proposing them take to be intuitively obvious. Beyond an appeal to intuition, little or no defense is offered, and in many cases it is hard to see what else could be said in support of these premises. A number of authors have suggested that the intuitions undergirding these skeptical arguments are universal – shared by everyone (or almost everyone) who thinks reflectively about knowledge. In this paper we will offer some evidence indicating that they are far from universal. Rather, the evidence suggests that many of the intuitions epistemologists invoke vary with the cultural background, socioeconomic status and educational background of the person offering the intuition. And this, we will argue, is bad news for the skeptical arguments that rely on those intuitions. The evidence may also be bad news for skepticism itself – not because it shows that skepticism is false, but rather because, if we accept one prominent account of the link between epistemic intuitions and epistemic concepts, it indicates that skepticism may be much less interesting and much less worrisome than philosophers have taken it to be. (shrink)
Our interest in this paper is to drive a wedge of contention between two different programs that fall under the umbrella of “experimental philosophy”. In particular, we argue that experimental philosophy’s “negative program” presents almost as significant a challenge to its “positive program” as it does to more traditional analytic philosophy.
In order for Herman Cappelen to argue in his Philosophy Without Intuitions that philosophers have been on the whole mistaken in thinking that we actually use intuitions much at all in our first-order philosophizing, he must attempt the task of characterizing what something must be, in order to be an intuition.My discussion here is focused on the latter half of the book concerning the “argument from philosophical practice. I am in wholehearted agreement with the first half’s thesis that the usage (...) of the term “intuition” is highly motley and of no methodological use. I truly sympathize with the frustration he evidently feels at wrangling with that task, because I’ve felt the same in my own project critiquing what I do take to be a fairly common practice in contemporary philosophy that we often gesture at when we speak of intuitions. For the literature on intuitions can be a total mess on even the most basic questions about what intuitions are: beliefs, or sui generis seemings? Special in .. (shrink)
Controversies over the innateness of cognitive processes, mechanisms, and structures play a persistent role in driving research in philosophy as well as the cognitive sciences, but the appropriate way to understand the category of the innate remains subject to dispute. One venerable approach in philosophy and cognitive science merely contrasts innate features with those that are learned. In fact, Jerry Fodor has recently suggested that this remains our best handle on innateness.
It has become increasingly popular to respond to experimental philosophy by suggesting that experimental philosophers haven’t been studying the right kind of thing. One version of this kind of response, which we call the reflection defense, involves suggesting both that philosophers are interested only in intuitions that are the product of careful reflection on the details of hypothetical cases and the key concepts involved in those cases, and that these kinds of philosophical intuitions haven’t yet been adequately studied by experimental (...) philosophers. Of course, as a defensivemove, thisworks only if reflective intuitions are immune from the kinds of problematic effects that form the basis of recent experimental challenges to philosophy’s intuition-deploying practices. If they are not immune to these kinds of effects, then the fact that experimental philosophers have not had the right kind of thing in their sights would provide little comfort to folks invested in philosophy’s intuition-deploying practices. Here we provide reasons to worry that even reflective intuitions can display sensitivity to the same kinds of problematic effects, although possibly in slightly different ways. As it turns out, being reflective might sometimes just mean being wrong in a different way. (shrink)
Timothy Williamson devotes significant effort in his The Philosophy of Philosophy to arguing against skepticism about judgment. One might think that the recent “experimental philosophy” challenge to the philosophical practice of appealing to intuitions as evidence is a possible target of those arguments. However, this is not so. The structure of that challenge is radically dissimilar from that of traditional skeptical arguments, and the aims of the challenge are entirely congruent with the spirit of methodological improvement that Williamson himself exemplifies (...) in the Afterword of his book. (shrink)
Must philosophers incorporate tools of experimental science into their methodological toolbox? I argue here that they must. Tallying up all the resources that are now part of standard practice in analytic philosophy, we see the problem that they do not include adequate resources for detecting and correcting for their own biases and proclivities towards error. Methodologically sufficient resources for error- detection and error-correction can only come, in part, from the deployment of specific methods from the sciences. However, we need not (...) imagine that the resulting methodological norms will be so empirically demanding as to require that all appeals to intuition must first be precertified by a thorough vetting by teams of scientists. Rather, I sketch a set of more moderate methodological norms for how we might best include these necessary tools of experimental philosophy. (shrink)
Recent theorists suggest that our capacity to respond affectively to fictions depends on our ability to engage in simulation: either simulating a character in the fiction, or simulating someone reading or watching the fiction as though it were fact. We argue that such accounts are quite successful at accounting for many of the basic explananda of our affective engagements in fiction. Nonetheless, we argue further that simulationist accounts ultimately fail, for simulation involves an ineliminably ego-centred element that is atypical of (...) our experience of fiction. We then draw on recent work in philosophical psychology to articulate a more psychologically plausible account of our emotional engagement with fiction. (shrink)
The practice of appealing to esoteric intuitions, long standard in analytic philosophy, has recently fallen on hard times. Various recent empirical results have suggested that philosophers are not currently able to distinguish good intuitions from bad. This paper evaluates one possible type of approach to this problematic methodological situation: calibration. Both critiquing and building on an argument from Robert Cummins, the paper explores what possible avenues may exist for the calibration of philosophical intuitions. It is argued that no good options (...) are currently available, but leaves open the real possibility of such a calibration in the future. (shrink)
Much discussion about experimental philosophy and philosophical methodology has been framed in terms of the reliability of intuitions, and even when it has not been about reliability per se, it has been focused on whether intuitions meet whatever conditions they need to meet to be trustworthy as evidence. But really that question cannot be answered independently from the questions, evidence for what theories arrived at by what sorts of inferences? I will contend here that not just philosophy's sources of evidence, (...) but also its inferential resources, are in great need of closer examination. (shrink)
Although radical forms of relativism are perhaps beyond the epistemological pale, I argue here that a more moderate form may be plausible, and articulate the conditions under which moderate epistemic relativism could well serve our epistemic goals. In particular, as a result of our limitations as human cognizers, we find ourselves needing to investigate the dappled and difficult world by means of competing communities of highly specialized researchers. We would do well, I argue, to admit of the existence of unresolvable (...) disputes between such communities, but only so long as there is a sufficient amount of fruitful exchange between them as well. I close with some speculation about when it is or is not legitimate to make an “appeal to discipline”: responding to another’s argument by saying something like, “we should do it this way, because we are philosophers (/linguists/psychologists/…), and that’s just what we do”. (shrink)
Griffiths and Machery contend that the concept of innateness should be dispensed with in the sciences. We contend that, once that concept is properly understood as what we have called 'closed process invariance', it is still of significant use in the sciences, especially cognitive science.
The developing body of empirical work on the "Gettier effect" indicates that, in general, the presence of a Gettier-type structure in a case makes participants less likely to attribute knowledge in that case. But is that a sufficient reason to diverge from a JTB theory of knowledge? I argue that considerations of good model selection, and worries about noise and overfitting, should lead us to consider that a live, open question. The Gettier effect is perhaps so transient, and so sensitive (...) to other, epistemologically-inappropriate factors, that it raises the question of whether it ought to be counted as something to include in our theories -- or as a piece of noise to be excluded from them. (shrink)
Standard philosophical methodology which proceeds by appeal to intuitions accessible "from the armchair" has come under criticism on the basis of empirical work indicating unanticipated variability of such intuitions. Loose constitutivity---the idea that intuitions are partly, but not strictly, constitutive of the concepts that appear in them---offers an interesting line of response to this empirical challenge. On a loose constitutivist view, it is unlikely that our intuitions are incorrect across the board, since they partly fix the facts in question. But (...) we argue that this ratification of intuitions is at best rough and generic, and can only do the required methodological work if it operates in conjunction with some sort of further criteria of theory selection. We consider two that we find in the literature: naturalness (Brian Weatherson, borrowing from Lewis) and charity (Henry Jackman, borrowing from Davidson). At the end of the day, neither provides the armchair philosopher complete shelter from extra-armchair inquiry. (shrink)
This paper proposes a revision of our understanding of causation that is designed to address what Hartry Field has suggested is the central problem in the metaphysics of causation today: reconciling Bertrand Russell’s arguments that the concept of causation can play no role in the advanced sciences with Nancy Cartwright’s arguments that causal concepts are essential to a scientific understanding of the world. The paper shows that Russell’s main argument is, ironically, very similar to an argument that Cartwright has put (...) forward against the truth of universal laws of nature. The paper uses this insight to develop an account of causation that does justice to traditional views yet avoids the arguments of Russell. (shrink)
Machery's case against hybrids rests on a principle that is too strong, even by his own lights. And there are likely important generalizations to be made about hybrids, if they do exist. Moreover, even if there were no important generalizations about concepts themselves, the term picks out an important class of entities and should be retained to help guide inquiry.
Experimental philosophy (henceforth “XΦ”) takes seriously the idea that philosophical inquiry may benefit directly from quantitative empirical research. That view strikes many as deeply misguided, perhaps oxymoronic: experimentation is simply the wrong kind of investigatory technique for solving philosophical puzzles. But to think XΦ an oxymoron is to have an opinion about the relationship between scientific and philosophical inquiry – in particular, that philosophy and science are distinct, independent enterprises each pursuable on its own terms. We argue that this ‘separate (...) but equal’ view of science and philosophy cannot be maintained. (shrink)
It has become increasingly popular to respond to experimental philosophy by suggesting that experimental philosophers haven’t been studying the right kind of thing. One version of this kind of response, which we call the reflection defense, involves suggesting both that philosophers are interested only in intuitions that are the product of careful reflection on the details of hypothetical cases and the key concepts involved in those cases, and that these kinds of philosophical intuitions haven’t yet been adequately studied by experimental (...) philosophers. Of course, as a defensivemove, thisworks only if reflective intuitions are immune from the kinds of problematic effects that form the basis of recent experimental challenges to philosophy’s intuition-deployingpractices. If they are not immune to these kinds of effects, then the fact that experimental philosophers have not had the right kind of thing in their sights would provide little comfort to folks invested in philosophy’s intuition-deploying practices. Here we provide reasons to worry that even reflective intuitions can display sensitivity to the same kinds of problematic effects, although possibly in slightly different ways. As it turns out, being reflective might sometimes just mean being wrong in a different way. (shrink)
In his Experiments in Ethics, Appiah focuses mostly on the dimension of naturalism as a naturalism of deprivation - naturalism’s apparent robbing us of aspects of the world that we had held dear. The aim of this paper is to remind him of that naturalism has a dimension of plenitude as well - its capacity to enrich our conception of the world as well. With regard to character, we argue that scientific psychology can help provide a conception of character as (...) dynamic, in a way that may preserve many key aspects of eudaimonistic ethics from the situationists’ challenge. With regard to intuition, we address Appiah’s worry that naturalistic explanations of the sources of our intuitions may leave us feeling that those intuitions have been thereby debunked. We suggest that it may be that feeling of debunking that should itself be debunked. (shrink)
Elqayam & Evans (E&E) argue that we should avoid evaluative normativity in our psychological theorizing. But there are two crucial issues lacking clarity in their presentation of evaluative normativity. One of them can be resolved through disambiguation, but the other points to a deeper problem: Evaluative normativity is too tightly-woven in our theorizing to be easily disentangled and discarded.
Bealer, G. (1998). “Intuition and the Autonomy of Philosophy,” in M. DePaul & W. Ramsey, eds., Rethinking Intuition: The Psychology of Intuition and Its Role in Philosophical Inquiry, Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.