I am pleased to announce this call-for-papers for the first annual Philosophers' Cocoon Philosophy Conference (PCPC), which will be held at the University of Tampa from Friday October 18th-Sunday October 20th, 2013. This conference will be unique in several respects:
Although attendance at the conference and participating as session chairs or commentators will be open to all members of the profession, paper presenters must be early-career philosophers -- basically, anyone who doesn't have tenure (e.g. graduate students, post-docs, VAP, TT Assistant Profs, independent scholars, etc.)
Due to the kinds of travel-funding issues that early-career philosophers often face, several paper sessions (the exact number of which will be determined later) will be reserved for Skype presentations in which the author will be projected, and field audience questions, in real time over the internet.
Although commentators and audience members are encouraged to present objections to papers, a guiding aim of the conference will beconstructive criticism, i.e. helping authors to improve problems (e.g. by not only raising objections, but offering and discussing possible solutions).
Because successfully navigating the publishing world is one of the most difficult capacities for early-career philosophers to develop, and typical conference-length papers are too short (3,000 words) to publish, we will welcome submissions the length of any typical journal article (20-30 pages double-spaced) -- the aim being to help early-career philosophers develop full-length papers into publishable quality. As a rule of thumb, the longer the paper, the higher the standards for acceptance to the conference. Extremely long papers are discouraged.
In order to defray costs of attendance (once again out of concern for the needs of early-career scholars), there will be no registration fee, and consequently no official banquet, snacks, etc. Tampa is awesome, and there are many affordable places to meet, eat, and congregate around the university.
We hope to stream all talks live via the internet and, if time permits, take some audience questions from internet viewers by email.
To submit a paper to present at the PCPC, please email the following to email@example.com by July 1, 2013: (1) a blinded (i.e. anonymized) paper, (2) a separate title page with the author's name, contract information, and brief paper abstract, and (3) a statement concerning whether you intend to attend the conference in person or only via Skype. Decision emails indicating whether your paper has been accepted will be sent out around August 1, 2013. Finally, please bear the following in mind:
In order to ensure that the conference is well-attended, there will be relatively few Skype sessions -- so the probability that your paper will be accepted is higher should you state in your submission email that you can attend in person.
Submission of a paper comprises a tacit agreement to serve as a commentator or session chair should your paper be accepted and you accept the invitation to present.
As this year's hiring season comes to a close, I was thinking it might be nice to take a moment to congratulate all the experimental philosophers who were hired this year. So here is a quick list of people who have published in experimental philosophy, the areas in which they have done experimental work (which aren't always the areas in which they have done the most work overall) and the institutions in which they were hired.
Shepherd (free will, intentional action) post-doc at The Oxford Centre for
Neuroethics, University of Oxford.
Justin Sytsma (consciousness, causation, reference) hired by Victoria University.
Zamzow (moral cognition) post-doc in Ethics and Cognition at
Carnegie Mellon (Center for Ethics and Policy).
In addition, Jason Stanley (coauthor of an experimental philosophy paper on knowledge) was hired at Yale, and psychologist Steve Guglielmo (coauthor of a number of experimental philosophy papers on intentional action) was hired at Macalester.
These people have really done some fantastic work, and their successes are very well deserved. A huge congratulations to them all!
p.s. I'm sure that I am missing some people here, so if you know of anyone else, please let me know. (Seriously, don't be needlessly humble: if I have forgotten to mention you, be sure to send me an email.)
p.p.s. If you are curious about the experimental philosophers hired last year, check out last year's post.
An integrated penultimate draft of the entry on "Experimental Moral Philosophy" for the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy is now available on my blog. Thanks to everyone who's sent me encouragement, comments, suggestions, criticisms, and citations.
Congratulations to our own Professor Cristina Bicchieri on the recently launched Behavioral Ethics Lab (BeLab) at The University of Pennsylvania. Here is a description of the exciting project:
BeLab is part of the Philosophy, Politics and Economics Program and reflects its multidisciplinary spirit. We study moral behavior in all its complexity, so that our research crosses the boundaries of several disciplines. Our group includes psychologists, behavioral economists, game theorists, biologists, and moral and political philosophers. At BeLab we do laboratory experiments, but we also go to the field, and we theorize about what we find empirically, using analytical models as well as simulations.
I look forward to seeing the findings from their lab!
Philosophy of Mind and Action
4th Workshop of the Experimental Philosophy
12-13 September 2013, Wills Memorial Building, University
for Submission: 5th July 2013
Experimental Philosophy Group UK
invites the submission of 500-word abstracts for 45-minute presentations or
poster presentations on ‘Experimental Philosophy: Philosophy of Mind and Action’
for their upcoming workshop. Keynote
presentations will be given by Natalie Gold (KCL), James Moore (Goldsmiths),
Regina Rini (Oxford) and Eric Schwitzgebel (UC Riverside).
We welcome submissions presenting
recently completed experimental work, engaging with the work of any of this
year’s keynote speakers, proposing new experimental work, discussing existing
empirical studies in the fields of Philosophy of Mind and Action, introducing
novel approaches in this area or raising relevant methodological questions.
All high-quality submissions
considered. Submissions encouraged from all levels of academia. 500-word
abstracts to be sent as PDF or Word documents to
firstname.lastname@example.org by 5th July 2013. Subject line of email
should read “SUBMISSION [YOUR NAME]”. In the body of the email please state your
name, affiliation and in which category (presentation or poster) you wish your
submission to be considered. Submissions
for presentations that are unsuccessful will be automatically considered for
poster presentation. Presenters
should be prepared to obtain funding from their home department, or to fund
Has anyone done any experimental work that is relevant to
how people think about agreement and disagreement?
A colleague is interested in whether there is a single
folk concept of agreement and disagreement, whether people recognise distinct
varieties of disagreement, etc. The interest concerns disagreement and agreement generally, not just moral disagreement.
Synthese has just published the special issue edited by Stephan Hartmann, Chiara Lisciandra, and myself on "Formal epistemology meets experimental philosophy." It's accessible there.
In this issue, we bring together the two most active and innovative areas of philosophy in the last decade: formal epistemology and experimental philosophy. The articles we have edited show how much there is to gain by bringing the two approaches together.
From our editorial: "In the past few years, there has been an increasing tendency in the application of formal and experimental methods to tackle philosophical issues. We very much approve of this trend, which we view as part and parcel of the recent renewal of “scientific philosophy”: In our mind, the aim of a scientifically oriented philosophy is to adopt formal and experimental methods to address philosophical questions."
Most of you are familar with the side-effect effect (a.k.a., the Knobe Effect), which is the asymmetric attributions of intentionality (among other things) to agents based on the side-effect of their actions. Joshua Knobe originally discovered the affect by presenting people with a vignette in which a corporate chairman initiates a new program to increase profits which also harms or helps the environment. While the side-effect effect has been studied and expanded in a number of subsequent articles, I have long been surprised that there was almost no work done on the effect in relation to business ethics. Knobe's original vignette (and many subsequent versions) was set in a business context, and one side effect was morally permissible while the other was not.
In a new article in the Journal of Business Ethics, Paul Stey, Mark Alfano, and I examine the implications ofthe side-effect effect for business ethics, but with a twists. We wanted to know what role attributions of virtue and vice played as well. As it turns out, while attributions of the virtue of compassion and the vice of callousness don't exhibit the side-effect effect, they do mediate people's willingness to cease doing business with a company, even if it cost more.
So a few years ago I had a post here (Are People Actually Moral Objectivists?) reporting some data we had collected about folk views concerning the status of morality. Much discussion ensued. That research project eventually yielded a co-authored paper in Mind & Language.
More recently (and more awesomely) the intrepid experimental filmmaker Ben Coonley put together a fantastic, short film based on that paper, starring Amanda Palmer!
You may already have seen Ben Coonley's previous short films on the Knobe effect, as well as a multi-part, interactive film on happiness, both inspired by experimental philosophy research, each of which has thousands of views. This one makes three in this series (so far). Not only are they great illustrations of the experiments, but they help get folk outside the academia to think about these philosophical issues!
The recent post by Moti Mizrahi brings up an important question. Much of the existing research in experimental philosophy has been concerned with the intuitions of ordinary folks, but a critic could respond to this work by saying: 'We were never really interested in people's ordinary intuitions in the first place. Our real interest was in the intuitions of trained experts -- people who have spent years thinking deeply about philosophical questions -- and the intuitions of trained experts might turn out to be radically different from those of ordinary folks.'
This is certainly a legitimate and interesting objection. We might be able to get some insight into it by looking to very general considerations (about, say, the nature of expertise or the nature of philosophical intuition), but of course, the most direct way of going after an issue like this one is to look at experimental studies that actually examine the philosophical intuitions of professional philosophers.
So I was thinking that it might be helpful to try to put together a list of the studies that have looked at philosophers' intuitions and to summarize their principal findings. I'll start out with a few here, but my hope is that people will chip in by putting some further ones into the comments section, so that we can eventually get a pretty complete list. (Please feel free to include studies that have not yet been published.)
With that as a prelude, here are a few studies on the intuitions of philosophers:
Philosophers Expert Intuiters?” (2010), Jonathan Weinberg, Chad
Gonnerman, Cameron Buckner and Joshua Alexander argue that one cannot simply
use the “expertise card” without the right kind of empirical evidence to back
it up. Proponents of the expertise defense have to show that philosophers
really do have some kind of philosophical intuitive expertise, especially in
light of what the extant scientific literature says about expertise.
Now, I think that a
paper of mine on arguments from expert opinion can contribute to this
debate in the following way. Those who appeal to the expertise defense are
effectively saying that an intuitive judgment J in response to hypothetical
case C is more likely to be true when made by a professional philosopher than
by a non-philosopher. More generally, J is more likely to be true when made by
an expert than by a non-expert. In my paper, however, I argue that this is not
the case. Studies on the accuracy of expert opinions show that, on average, expert
opinions are only slightly more accurate than chance. As one researcher put it,
the experts he studied did no better than “a
If this is correct, then, even if philosophers are expert
intuiters, it would still not follow that their expert judgments are significantly
more likely to be true than the judgments of non-experts. And if that’s the
case, then there is no reason to give the intuitive judgments of professional
philosophers more weight in philosophical arguments than to the intuitive judgments of non-philosophers.
I’m curious to know what readers make of this additional
challenge to proponents of the expertise defense.
like to invite you to an online experiment on knowledge, which is a follow-up
experiment to one that we conducted in June 2012. Everyone who participated in
the earlier experiment is welcome to take part in the present experiment as
well. In the experiment, you will be asked to judge about several scenarios
whether the agent in the scenario knows a certain fact. You can enter the
experiment via the following link:
especially encourage the participation of people with some expertise in philosophy
and/or epistemology. At the end of the study, every participant can register
for a price draw to win a copy of Joshua Alexander’s recent book “Experimental
Philosophy: An Introduction”.
If you have any further questions regarding this
experiment, please feel free to contact Joachim Horvath, Department of
Philosophy, University of Cologne (email@example.com) or Alex
Wiegmann, Department of Psychology, University of Goettingen (firstname.lastname@example.org).
The Fuller Theological Seminary recently ran a grant competition to which both experimental philosophers and psychologists applied. The topic of research was "Intellectual Humility," an understudied intellectual virtue. Last I checked, there were about 30 finalists, of whom 16 or so were expected to receive funding; sources now indicate that at least four teams that had xphi people on them received funding:
(Apologies for lack of links; I found out about the sucesses through the facebook, and so wasn't sure about website for some of the people involved.)
I don't yet know much by way of details of the other teams' projects, but I can say a bit about my own: we are concerned that there is something like a paradox of self-reference when it comes to virtues like modesty and humility (and their intellectual counterparts). Someone who indicates agreement, in response to a personality survey, with, "I am a humble person," is not all that likely to be humble. We consider this a contingent, empirical truth, not a conceptual one, but we think it's a robust generalization nonetheless. The basic strategy for our research is therefore to show that even the best explicit test of intellectual humility has less predictive power than an implicit test of intellectual humility. Our behavioral outcome draws on resources from both social psychology (the Asch paradigm) and cognitive psychology (the vast literature on reasoning and patterns of fallacies and illusory inferences). Brian Robinson discusses this in a bit more detail at his blog.
I'll let the other successful teams detail their projects as they see fit in the comments.
Don Loeb and I are writing the entry for "Experimental Moral Philosophy" for the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. This is a daunting task, given the huge amount of interesting and diverse work that's relevant. On my blog, I'm going to be posting drafts of the sections that I write (and maybe the sections that Don writes) for public comments. If you think I'm getting things totally wrong, or missing something crucial, or am just plain stupid, please let me know in the comments there or by email.
Some posts are now available (others will be added periodically):
(6) UPDATE ADDED FEBRUARY 26: a section on wellbeing
(5) UPDATE ADDED FEBRUARY 20: a section on the linguistic analogy
(4) UPDATE ADDED FEBRUARY 15: a section on emotion and affect
(3) UPDATE ADDED JULY 18: a section on intentionality attributions at the side-effect effect (AKA Knobe effect)
In light of a recent discussion about how to construe experimental philosophy, readers might be interested in a forthcoming paper by David Danks and I where we take up some of these issues. Here's the abstract:
Experimental philosophy is often held out as a new movement that avoids many of the difficulties that face traditional philosophy. We distinguish two views of experimental philosophy—a narrow view in which philosophers conduct empirical investigations of intuitions and a broad view which says that experimental philosophy is just the co-location in the same body of (i) philosophical naturalism and (ii) the actual practice of cognitive science. These two positions are rarely clearly distinguished in the literature about experimental philosophy, both pro and con. We argue first that the broader view is the only plausible one; discussions of experimental philosophy should recognize that the narrow view is a caricature of experimental philosophy as it is currently done. We then show both how objections to experimental philosophy are transformed and how positive recommendations can be provided by adopting our broad conception of experimental philosophy.
Just a quick note that I've published an article in The Philosophical Forum , "A New Theory of Free Will", that may be of interest to experimental philosophers (a free PDF of its penultimate draft is available here). Here's the abstract:
This paper shows that several live philosophical and scientific hypotheses – including the holographic principle and multiverse theory in quantum physics, and eternalism and mind-body dualism in philosophy – jointly imply an audacious new theory of free will. This new theory, "Libertarian Compatibilism", holds that the physical world is an eternally existing array of two-dimensional information – a vast number of possible pasts, presents, and futures – and the mind a nonphysical entity or set of properties that "read" that physical information off to subjective conscious awareness (in much the same way that a song written on an ordinary compact-disc is only played when read by an outside medium, i.e. a CD-player). According to this theory, every possible physical “timeline” in the multiverse may be fully physically deterministic or physically-causally closed but each person’s consciousness still entirely free to choose, ex nihilo, outside of the physical order, which physically-closed timeline is experienced by conscious observers. Although Libertarian Compatibilism is admittedly fantastic, I show that it not only follows from several live scientific and philosophical hypotheses, I also show that it (A) is a far more explanatorily powerful model of quantum mechanics than more traditional interpretations (e.g. the Copenhagen, Everett, and Bohmian interpretations), (B) makes determinate, testable empirical predictions in quantum theory, and finally, (C) predicts and explains the very existence of a number of philosophical debates and positions in the philosophy of mind, time, personal identity, and free will. First, I show that whereas traditional interpretations of quantum mechanics are all philosophically problematic and roughly as ontologically “extravagant” as Libertarian Compatibilism – in that they all posit “unseen” processes – Libertarian Compatibilism is nearly identical in structure to the only working simulation that human beings have ever constructed capable of reproducing (and so explaining) every general feature of quantum mechanics we perceive: namely, massive-multiplayer-online-roleplaying videogames (or MMORPGs). Although I am not the first to suggest that our world is akin to a computer simulation, I show that existing MMORPGs (online simulations we have already created) actually reproduce every general feature of quantum mechanics within their simulated-world reference-frames. Second, I show that existing MMORPGs also replicate (and so explain) many philosophical problems we face in the philosophy of mind, time, personal identity, and free will – all while conforming to the Libertarian Compatibilist model of reality. I conclude, as such, that as fantastic and metaphysically extravagant as Libertarian Compatibilism may initially seem, it may well be true. It explains a number of features of our reality that no other physical or metaphysical theory does.
I suspect that if anyone reading knows how to program simple peer-to-peer (P2P) network simulations, there are probably some of cool experiments one could run to examine the quantum phenomena that I argue inevitably emerge from the structure of any such simulation. The paper may also be of interest to those who do X-phi survey studies on free will.
Is an entity's physical constitution a central principle of folk psychology that guides judgments about phenomenal consciousness? In a spooky new paper with Mark Phelan, we continue our examination of experiential state ascriptions by turning to the phantasmally disembodied—ghosts and spirits.
Lacking in any body whatsoever, spirits constitute the ultimate test of the basic embodiment view. If embodiment is a crucial cue for phenomenal state attribution, then we should expect important differences in ascription between human beings, on the one hand, and disembodied ghosts and spirits, on the other—just as we expect (given our prior work in this area) to find important differences in phenomenal state attribution for functional information (information about the goals, desires, etc, of an entity). However if functional information tends to cue mental state ascription independently of whether the entity has a physical body, then it undermines the embodiment hypothesis. This is what we set out to investigate, using spirits as our medium.
In five experiments, our results suggest that embodiment is not a central principle guiding ascriptions of phenomenal consciousness to these sorts of entities, while also continuing to support the important role of functional considerations in theory of mind judgments. We speculate that these findings may also at least begin to question the widespread nature of intuitions used to motivate absent qualia arguments against functionalism.
I notice there hasn't been much conversation on the blog lately, so some comments would really raise our spirits!