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:
Eric Schwitzgebel & Fiery Cushman (2012). Expertise in Moral Reasoning? Order Effects on Moral Judgment in Professional Philosophers and Non-Philosophers. Mind & Language 27:135-153.
- The intuitions of ordinary folks showed an order effect. The intuitions of philosophers showed exactly the same order effect, but unlike ordinary folks, philosophers were able to develop principles that justified whichever pattern of intuitions they held.
Knobe, J. & Samuels, R. (2013). Thinking Like a Scientist: Innateness as a Case Study. Cognition. 126: 72-86.
- Ordinary folks gave different answers depending on whether they are presented with each vignette separately or given both vignettes together. Philosophers made exactly the same error.
Sytsma, J. & Machery, E. (2010). Two Conceptions of Subjective Experience. Philosophical Studies, 151(2): 299-327.
- Philosophers were asked a question about consciousness and also asked how ordinary folks would respond. Philosophers gave different answers from ordinary folks but also mistakenly attributed to the folk a view that was more like their own.
Dunnaway, B., Edmonds, A., and Manley, D. (forthcoming). The Folk Probably Do Think What You Think They Think. Australasian Journal of Philosophy.
- Philosophers were asked to predict the results of experimental philosophy studies in which the outcome had been alleged to be 'surprising.' Philosophers were highly accurate in making these predictions.
Machery, E. (2012). Expertise and intuitions about reference. Theoria.
- Results tentatively suggest that linguists' and philosophers' intuitions about reference are influenced by their disciplinary background.
Stotz, K., Linquist, S., Griffiths, P., and Machery, E. (ms). Expert representations of innateness. (Order of the authors to be determined.)
- Intuitions about innateness were not influenced by disciplinary affiliation across a wide range of scientific fields.
Tobia, K., Buckwalter, W., & Stich, S. (Forthcoming). Moral intuitions: Are philosophers experts? Philosophical Psychology.
- Both non-philosophers and philosophers show an actor/observer bias.