The PhilPapers SurveysOriginal Survey Information Page (Back to contents)

  1. Who is conducting this survey?

    The survey is being run by the co-directors of PhilPapers, David Bourget and David Chalmers. Kelvin McQueen has served as a research assistant.

  2. Why are you conducting the survey?

    We are conducting the survey as an information-gathering exercise concerning the distribution of philosophical views within the philosophical profession. We hope to discover interesting facts about the distribution of these views.

    We are not performing a scientific study that is intended to test certain specific antecedent hypotheses. We also do not regard the survey as a direct contribution to first-order philosophy. However, it is possible that the data we are gathering may be used as inputs for scientific or philosophical work in the future, either by us or by others.

  3. What is the target population of the survey?

    Our primary target population consists of professional philosophers, but the survey is open to anyone to take. We will break down results by different categories of users, including those with a Ph.D. in philosophy, graduate students in philosophy, undergraduates in philosophy, and others.

    For a controlled survey group, we have emailed invitations to just over 2000 professional philosophers in 99 leading departments of philosophy: 62 in the US, 18 in the UK, 7 in Europe outside the UK, 7 in Canada, and 5 in Australasia. These include the 89 Ph.D.-granting departments in English-speaking countries rated 1.9 or above in the Philosophical Gourmet Report, along with seven departments in non-English-speaking countries and three non-Ph-D.-granting departments of comparable quality (chosen in consultation with the editor of the Gourmet Report and with a number of other philosophers). The controlled group is necessary in order to minimize the probability of survey abuse and to reduce the selection bias that arises from web-based surveys. We used mainly departments from the Gourmet Report because in these cases faculty lists are already available. It was not possible to use membership lists for national philosophical associations, as some of these associations (e.g. the APA) do not allow the use of these lists for email purposes. The controlled group tends to favor departments strong in analytic philosophy, because our focus is especially on issues that are central within analytic philosophy.

    The survey is also open to professionals philosophers, graduate students, and interested others outside the controlled group. The uncontrolled group is more open to survey abuse and to selection bias, but we have used email address validation and other methods to reduce and monitor these issues. We will report results for both the controlled and uncontrolled groups, broken down into various subpopulations. We strongly encourage anyone who is interested to take the survey.

  4. How did you come up with the questions?

    We sought a list of simple questions that (i) could be phrased as a (usually binary) choice between views, (ii) would be widely understood within the profession, and (iii) are at the center of widespread debate within analytic philosophy. The two of us came up with an initial list. Feedback from beta testing by around 60 professional philosophers led to various changes and to the final list.

    Of course many important issues and questions are not represented. We sought a relatively short list in order to maximize response for this initial survey. Many important issues were excluded because they are hard to phrase in the relevant form or because they are of relatively specialized interest. We hope to explore further questions in future surveys.

    Questions are drawn especially from "core" areas of philosophy: metaphysics, epistemology, the philosophy of mind, the philosophy of language, and ethics. We have also included questions concerning aesthetics, decision theory, logic, philosophy of science, and political philosophy. We trialed questions in legal philosophy, philosophy of social science, and philosophy of physics (as well as others in the areas above) but these questions proved to be less widely understood. We hope to include questions in these areas on future surveys, however.

    The questions all involve choices between philosophical positions. 25 questions concern broad philosophical views while five concern specific thought-experiments. Positions are usually represented by a brief label. This simple format eschews long clarifications and explanations, as these are inevitably tendentious and require further explanation in turn. The resulting short questions are certainly imperfect in various respects, and various "other" options are provided to help compensate for this, but we encourage users to choose the most natural interpretation and to report leaning or acceptances whenever they can. Users should also feel free to consult other sources for clarification or explanation if they wish.

  5. How do you plan to use the results?

    We will calculate various statistics concerning the distribution of answers in the survey population. For example, we will report the percentages who give each answer to the thirty main questions. We will also investigate correlations between answers to each question, and perform a factor analysis. We will examine the interactions between answers to the main questions and background information such as age, nationality, institutional location, philosophical tradition, and area of specialization.

  6. Where will you make the results available?

    We will publish results from the survey on the PhilPapers website and on Chalmers' weblog. We will also send email to all respondents with results of the survey, or with a link to results. At the moment we do not have concrete plans to publish the results in journals or books, but it is possible that we will do so in the future.

  7. Who has access to my information?

    The PhilPapers research team (currently Bourget, Chalmers, and McQueen) has access to a database consisting of all of answers by all subjects. Your name and email address are not included in this database. However, in principle we have access to information that could identify you, either through a separate database that includes names and email addresses or through your answers to the background questions.

    We may share the main database with a limited number of researchers at some point in the future. No information about names or email addresses will be included in this database.

    At the end of the survey, we will give you the option of making your answers public, by attaching them to a PhilPapers profile. If you do not choose to make your answers public in this way, then your answers will be publicly used only to generate general statistics about the distribution of answers in the population of survey respondents.

  8. What are the risks of taking this survey?

    If you make your answers public, then your views on numerous key philosophical questions will be available to anyone. The questions include potentially sensitive issues concerning religion and political philosophy, and all the items concern issues that are controversial within the profession. It is possible that knowledge of your answers will affect others' opinions of you and their actions toward you.

    To minimize this risk, we have made public disclosure of answers optional, and we have also allowed respondents to skip any question that they choose not to answer for any reason.

    Even if you choose not to make your answers public, it is possible that general statistics will reveal information about individual answers. For example, a statistic might say that 100% of respondents in area X gave response Y, or that 0% of respondents at institution X gave response Y. We will not publicly release a list of survey respondents, but informed observers may be able to make inferences about individuals in some cases.

    To minimize this risk, we allow you to skip any question for which this possibility raises a significant concern. We will also be cautious about reporting overly specific results.

  9. Do you have approval from an institutional review board?

    We have received approval from the ANU Human Research Ethics Committee. If you have any concerns, please feel free to contact the ANU Human Ethics Office at or at +61 2 6125 7945.

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