Experimental philosophy has made significant contributions to theoretical investigations in areas such as philosophy of mind and epistemology. However, one area where experimental philosophy has had less of an impact is in applied ethics. This may seem surprising because of some of the seeming natural connections between experimental philosophy and applied ethics. In a new paper, Edward Cokely and I attempt to build some bridges between experimental philosophy and applied ethics.
In two experiments, we show that people's intuitions about terrorism can be predictably manipulated. In the first experiment, we demonstrate that calling a group of people 'terrorists' alters a host of judgments about that group. In the second experiment, we use “real” materials from a news source to show that people's intuitions about terrorism can be altered by what has recently been considered (e.g., how many people terrorists have killed). We argue that these results have important implications for the applied ethical study of terrorism. We hope this helps spark an increased interest in experimental philosophers to weigh in on important, current, and difficult issues in applied ethics.