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Saturday
Oct302010

RS21 - Joshua Knobe on Experimental Philosophy

Release date: November 7, 2010


 

Our guest, Joshua Knobe, is a philosopher interested in cognitive science, so interested, in fact, that he has contributed to establishing a whole new branch of inquiry known as experimental philosophy — and he plausibly claims that the name is not actually an oxymoron!

The idea is summarized in this way on one of the major web sites devoted to the enterprise: "Experimental philosophy, called x-phi for short, is a new philosophical movement that supplements the traditional tools of analytic philosophy with the scientific methods of cognitive science. So experimental philosophers actually go out and run systematic experiments aimed at understanding how people ordinarily think about the issues at the foundation of the philosophical discussion.”

Joshua Knobe is an assistant professor at Yale University, affiliated both with the Program in Cognitive Science and the Department of Philosophy. Most of his work involves using the kinds of experimental methods associated with cognitive science to address the kinds of questions associated with philosophy.

Comment on the episode teaser.

Joshua's picks:

Reader Comments (4)

The discussion on specialisation reminded me of a short SF story by Alfred Bester called Disappearing Act, first published in 1953 in which technical expertise is valued above all, and when a problem arises that requires a generalist, one cannot be found.

November 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMary Hallam

The discussion on specialisation reminded me of a short SF story by Alfred Bester called Disappearing Act, first published in 1953 in which technical expertise is valued above all, and when a problem arises that requires a generalist, one cannot be found.

November 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMary Hallam

Previous to listening to this episode I was quite skeptical of the relevance of experimental philosophy - it sounded like a superfluous definition that needlessly blurred the lines between science, philosophy and psychology.

However it became clear to me that there are certainly many areas of philosophical inquiry that may benefit from a less armchair-based and more experimental approach, even if that approach does not necessarily garner scientifically relevant data but merely acts as a catalytic philosophical agent.

Being able to have my mind changed about things makes me feel intellectually alive, so thank you to all of you who produce this show - it's a joy to listen to every week.

November 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJesse R
In an entirely deterministic reality wherein no one has free will, no one has moral responsibility either. People do, however, have legal responsibility. Therefore, we can still identify the man who murders his family so he can more easily marry his secretary as evil even without the concept of free will. We can also rationally decide to isolate this man away from society since he causes massive harm to people and has the potential to cause further massive harm. However, without assigning this criminal moral responsibility, we can avoid the sentimental blame and condemnation associated with the idea of free will and the belief that he "choose" his course of actions. Instead of viewing him as inherently evil by choice, we can see him as a broken member of society that we need to isolate away from society for safety and security reasons.

Moral relativism really makes no sense at all. If various cultures have traditions that deviate from a morally positive system of ethics, than we can properly identify these cultures as defective.

Why not have experimental philosophy? We have experimental physics, psychology, medicine, and so forth. So if someone wants to attempt philosophy experiments, by all means give it your best.
February 6, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJameson

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