The distinguished French philosopher Pascal Engel has an interesting new piece exploring the broader implications of recent work in experimental philosophy.
At one point, he suggests that experimental results might be philosophically relevant if one has already accepted an 'anti-foundationalist' conception of the relevant domain -- but that the experimental results do not themselves provide any evidence for such a conception. In other words, the suggestion is that these results should only be considered relevant by philosophers who think they have some kind of independent (non-experimental) reason for adopting an anti-foundationalist view.
I'm certainly no great translator, but I was curious to hear what people here might think of Engel's argument, so I did my best with the relevant passage:
Am I not being too severe? Are there not domains in which experimental philosophy can have a positive impact, in which it can establish or reinforce the truth of certain philosophical theses? I believe so, but the consequences are doubtless more limited than the promoters of these empirical methods would suggest.
In epistemology, recent work has discussed knowledge attributions and the question as to whether, in cases of so-called ‘pragmatic encroachment,’ knowledge is not fundamentally relative to practical stakes... Empirical studies can help us to better understand these effects. Can they also allow us to derive consequences with regard to the validity of evidentialism in the theory of knowledge? It is doubtful.
In metaethics, experimental philosophy can play an important role if one is an expressivist, i.e., if one maintains that our moral ideas and principles do not rest on a moral reality but rather are ‘response dependent.’ It then becomes important to know what our responses are, and moral psychology can therefore play an essential role. But does any of this give us the slightest argument in favor of expressivism in metaethics? In my opinion, no.
[…] I understand perfectly well that philosophers who have deflationist, relativist or skeptical positions in epistemology (relativism, contextualism), in metaethics (expressivism, minimalism) or in metaphysics (positivism, eliminativism, quietism) would be tempted by these developments. But I do not see why philosophers who are not tempted by these developments, who still have ‘foundationalist’ positions, should adopt these methods.