(Note: Experimental philosophy is only a subset of scientific philosophy because it uses only one part of scientific method: the experimental one)
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Experimental philosophy is a form of philosophical inquiry that makes at least partial use of quantitative research–especially opinion polling–in order to address philosophical questions. This is in contrast with more traditional methods found in analytic philosophy, whereby a philosopher will frequently begin by appealing to his or her personal intuitions on an issue and then form an argument with those intuitions as premises. Experimental philosophy is a recent movement--all or almost all published papers in the movement date from after 2000. As of December 2007, Joshua Knobe's experimental philosophy page lists more than 50 individuals who have done research in experimental philosophy.
Disagreement about what experimental philosophy can accomplish and what experimental philosophers are trying to accomplish is widespread. One possibility is that experimental philosophers are studying empirical questions which are connected to philosophy so far as they concern traditional philosophical topics. Others claim that experimental philosophers are engaged in conceptual analysis, but taking advantage of the rigor of quantitative research to aid in that project. Finally, some work in experimental philosophy can be seen as undercutting the traditional methods and presuppositions of analytic philosophy.
Topics studied by experimental philosophers have included, but are not limited to: the concept of intentional action, the putative conflict between free will and determinism, causal vs. descriptive accounts of reference and Gettier cases.
Antti Kauppinen has argued that intuitions will not reflect the content of folk concepts unless they are intuitions of competent concept users who reflect in ideal circumstances and whose judgments reflect the semantics of their concepts rather than pragmatic considerations. Experimental philosophers are aware of these concerns, and have in some cases explicitly argued against pragmatic explanations of the phenomena they study. In turn, Kauppinen has argued that any satisfactory way of ensuring his three conditions are met would involve dialogue with the subject that would be engaging in traditional philosophy.
- Knobe, Joshua. "What is Experimental Philosophy?" The Philosophers' Magazine, (Forthcoming). Viewable at http://www.unc.edu/~knobe/ExperimentalPhilosophy.pdf.
- Machery, Edouard. "What are Experimental Philosophers Doing?" Viewable at http://experimentalphilosophy.typepad.com/experimental_philosophy/2007/07/index.html.
- Kauppinen, Antti. "The Rise and Fall of Experimental Philosophy." Philosophical Explorations, June 2007. Viewable at http://www.helsinki.fi/%7Eamkauppi/phil/The_Rise_and_Fall_of_Experimental_Philosophy.pdf.