Experimental Philosophy: Developing a Conceptual and Methodological Framework for Interdisciplinary Empirical Research

Experimental Philosophy is a new interdisciplinary field that addresses philosophical questions using empirical methods drawn from Experimental Psychology.

It takes philosophy out of the armchair by investigating laypersons’ intuitions on conceptual issues, such as what sorts of beings have minds, who has moral responsibilities and rights, and what determines conscious experience. This approach has gained popularity in recent years, but most Experimental Philosophy studies to date suffer from employing survey methodologies that are prone to response biases, phrasing ambiguities, and respondents’ lack of insight into the reasons for their own intuitions. Furthermore, these studies have focused almost entirely on educated Western populations.

To take Experimental Philosophy forward, our project will bring philosophers and psychologists together to develop a framework for running philosophical thought experiments (which are normally either physically or ethically impossible) using virtual reality and online environments. This will enable assessment of peoples’ actual behaviours, rather than how they think they might behave in given scenarios. Online implementation will also enable access to participants with diverse cultural backgrounds. Over the next year we will be organising workshops and a series of lectures leading to initial experiments in this exciting new field.

Project Activities: Workshop one (8th April 2014)

Project team: 

Project Leaders: Dr David Carmel (Psychology) and Dr Suilin Lavelle (Philosophy)

Project duration: 
2 years
Funded by a College of Humanities and Social Sciences Challenge Investment Grant (c. £9K), with additional funding from Eidyn/PPLS