• A Companion to Experimental Philosophy (edited book)
    John Wiley & Sons. 2016.
  • The meta-problem is “the problem of explaining why we think that there is a problem of consciousness”. This presupposes that we think there is a problem in the first place. We challenge the breadth of this “we," arguing that there is already sufficient empirical evidence to cast doubt on the claim. We then add to this body of evidence, presenting the results of a new cross-cultural study extending the work of Sytsma and Machery.
  • It is often asserted that we should believe that phenomenal consciousness exists because it is pretheoretically obvious. If this is the case, then we should expect lay people to categorize mental states in roughly the way that philosophers do, treating prototypical examples of phenomenally conscious mental states similarly. Sytsma and Machery present preliminary evidence that this is not the case. They found that participants happily ascribed seeing red to a simple robot but denied that the robo…Read more
  • Research indicates that norms matter for ordinary causal attributions. Across a range of cases in which two agents jointly bring about an outcome, with one violating a norm while the other does not, causal ratings are higher for the agent who violates the norm. Building off such findings, Kominsky et al. note a related phenomenon that they term “causal superseding”—whether or not one agent violates a norm also affects causal ratings for the other agent. Kominsky et al. offer an explanation of th…Read more
  • Many theories of actual causation implicitly endorse the claim that if c is an actual cause of e, then either c causes e directly or every intermediary by which c indirectly causes e is itself both an actual cause of e and also an actual effect of c. We think this compositionality constraint is plausible. However, as we show, it is not always satisfied by the causal attributions ordinary people make. After showing that the compositionality constraint is not always satisfied by the causal attribu…Read more
  • In this paper, we reply to Tom Sorell’s criticism of our engagement with the history of philosophy in our book, The Theory and Practice of Experimental Philosophy. We explain why our uses of the history of philosophy are not undermined by Sorell’s criticism and why our position is not threatened by the dilemma Sorell advances. We argue that Sorell has mischaracterized the dialectical context of our discussion of the history of philosophy and that he has mistakenly treated our use of the history …Read more
  • On experimental philosophy and the history of philosophy: a reply to Sorell
    British Journal for the History of Philosophy 1-13. forthcoming.
    In this paper, we reply to Tom Sorell’s criticism of our engagement with the history of philosophy in our book, The Theory and Practice of Experimental Philosophy. We explain why our uses of the history of philosophy are not undermined by Sorell’s criticism and why our position is not threatened by the dilemma Sorell advances. We argue that Sorell has mischaracterized the dialectical context of our discussion of the history of philosophy and that he has mistakenly treated our use of the history …Read more
  • Causal Attributions and Corpus Analysis
    with Bluhm Roland, Willemsen Pascale, and Reuter Kevin
    In Eugen Fischer (ed.), Methodological Advances in Experimental Philosophy, Bloomsbury Press. forthcoming.
    Although philosophers have often held that causation is a purely descriptive notion, a growing body of experimental work on ordinary causal attributions using questionnaire methods indicates that it is heavily influenced by normative information. These results have been the subject of sceptical challenges. Additionally, those who find the results compelling have disagreed about how best to explain them. In this chapter, we help resolve these debates by using a new set of tools to investigate ord…Read more
  • Unfelt Pain
    Synthese. forthcoming.
    The standard view in philosophy treats pains as phenomenally conscious mental states. This view has a number of corollaries, including that it is generally taken to rule out the existence of unfelt pains. The primary argument in support of the standard view is that it supposedly corresponds with the commonsense conception of pain. In this paper, we challenge this doctrine about the commonsense conception of pain, and with it the support offered for the standard view, by presenting the results of…Read more
  • In the opening paragraph of “Computing Machinery and Intelligence” Alan Turing famously notes that “if the meaning of the words ‘machine’ and ‘think’ are to be found by examining how they are commonly used it is difficult to escape the conclusion that the meaning and the answer to the question, ‘Can machines think?’ is to be sought in a statistical survey such as a Gallup poll.” He then immediately responds, “But this is absurd.” But why is this absurd, if indeed it is? We think that the suggest…Read more
  • Both advocates and critics of experimental philosophy often describe it in narrow terms as being the empirical study of people’s intuitions about philosophical cases. This conception corresponds with a narrow origin story for the field—it grew out of a dissatisfaction with the uncritical use of philosophers’ own intuitions as evidence for philosophical claims. In contrast, a growing number of experimental philosophers have explicitly embraced a broad conception of the sub-discipline, which treat…Read more
  • In this paper, we consider three competing explanations of the empirical finding that people’s causal attributions are responsive to normative details, such as whether an agent’s action violated an injunctive norm—the intervention view, the bias view, and the responsibility view. We then present new experimental evidence concerning a type of case not previously investigated in the literature. In the switch version of the trolley problem, people judge that the bystander ought to flip the switch, …Read more
  • In previous work, we presented evidence suggesting that ordinary people do not conceive of subjective experiences as having phenomenal qualities. We then argued that these findings undermine a common justification given for the reality of the hard problem of consciousness. In a thought-provoking article, Talbot has challenged our argument. In this article, we respond to his criticism.
  • Experimental Philosophy of Pain
    Journal of Indian Council of Philosophical Research 34 (3): 611-628. 2017.
    The standard view of pains among philosophers today holds that their existence consists in being experienced, such that there can be no unfelt pains or pain hallucinations. The typical line of support offered for this view is that it corresponds with the ordinary or commonsense conception of pain. Despite this, a growing body of evidence from experimental philosophers indicates that the ordinary understanding of pain stands in contrast to the standard view among philosophers. In this paper, we w…Read more
  • In a series of articles in this journal, Michael Tye and Paul Noordhof have sparred over the correct explanation of the putative invalidity of the following argument: the pain is in my fingertip; the fingertip is in my mouth; therefore, the pain is in my mouth. Whereas Tye explains the failure of the argument by stating that “pain “creates an intensional context, Noordhof maintains that the “in” in ‘the pain is in my fingertip’ is not spatial, but has state-attributing character. In this paper, …Read more
  • Neuroscience & the nature of philosophy
    Iride: Filosofia e Discussione Pubblica 46 495-514. 2005.
  • Dennett’s Theory of the Folk Theory of Consciousness
    Journal of Consciousness Studies 17 (3-4): 107-130. 2010.
    It is not uncommon to find assumptions being made about folk psychology in the discussions of phenomenal consciousness in philosophy of mind. In this article I consider one example, focusing on what Dan Dennett says about the 'folk theory of consciousness'. I show that he holds that the folk believe that qualities like colours that we are acquainted with in ordinary perception are phenomenal qualities. Nonetheless, the shape of the folk theory is an empirical matter and in the absence of empiric…Read more
  • God knows (but does God believe?)
    Philosophical Studies 166 (1): 83-107. 2013.
    The standard view in epistemology is that propositional knowledge entails belief. Positive arguments are seldom given for this entailment thesis, however; instead, its truth is typically assumed. Against the entailment thesis, Myers-Schulz and Schwitzgebel (Noûs, forthcoming) report that a non-trivial percentage of people think that there can be propositional knowledge without belief. In this paper, we add further fuel to the fire, presenting the results of four new studies. Based on our results…Read more
  • In recent years, developments in experimental philosophy have led many thinkers to reconsider their central assumptions and methods. It is not enough to speculate and introspect from the armchair - philosophers must subject their claims to scientific scrutiny, looking at evidence and in some cases conducting new empirical research. "The Theory and Practice of Experimental Philosophy" is an introduction and guide to the systematic collection and analysis of empirical data in academic philosophy. …Read more
  • Reference in the Land of the Rising Sun: A Cross-cultural Study on the Reference of Proper Names
    with Jonathan Livengood, Ryoji Sato, and Mineki Oguchi
    Review of Philosophy and Psychology 6 (2): 213-230. 2015.
    A standard methodology in philosophy of language is to use intuitions as evidence. Machery, Mallon, Nichols, and Stich challenged this methodology with respect to theories of reference by presenting empirical evidence that intuitions about one prominent example from the literature on the reference of proper names vary between Westerners and East Asians. In response, Sytsma and Livengood conducted experiments to show that the questions Machery and colleagues asked participants in their study were…Read more
  • Experimental Philosophy and Philosophical Disputes
    Essays in Philosophy (1): 9. 2011.
    One view of philosophy that is sometimes expressed, especially by scientists, is that while philosophers are good at asking questions, they are poor at producing convincing answers. And the perceived divide between philosophical and scientific methods is often pointed to as the major culprit behind this lack of progress. Looking back at the history of philosophy, however, we find that this methodological divide is a relatively recent invention. Further, it is one that has been challenged over th…Read more
  • Philosophy and the Brain Sciences
    Iris. European Journal of Philosophy and Public Debate 1 (2): 353-374. 2009.
    What are the differences between philosophy and science, or between the methods of philosophy and the methods of science? Unlike some philosophers we do not find philosophy and the methods of philosophy to be sui generis. Science, and in particular neuroscience, has much to tell us about the nature of the world and the concepts that we must use to understand and explain it. Yet science cannot function well without reflective analysis of the concepts, methods, and practices that constitute it. Fo…Read more
  • Two conceptions of subjective experience
    Philosophical Studies 151 (2): 299-327. 2010.
    Do philosophers and ordinary people conceive of subjective experience in the same way? In this article, we argue that they do not and that the philosophical concept of phenomenal consciousness does not coincide with the folk conception. We first offer experimental support for the hypothesis that philosophers and ordinary people conceive of subjective experience in markedly different ways. We then explore experimentally the folk conception, proposing that for the folk, subjective experience is cl…Read more
  • Language police running amok
    Journal of Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology 27 (1): 89-103. 2007.
    In this article I critique Kathleen Slaney and Michael Maraun’s (2005) addition to the ongoing philosophical charge that neuroscientific writing often transgresses the bounds of sense. While they sometimes suggest a minimal, cautious thesis–that certain usage can generate confusion and in some cases has–they also bandy about charges of meaninglessness, conceptual confusion, and nonsense freely. These charges rest on the premise that terms have specific correct usages that correspond with Slaney …Read more
  • Hallucinating Pain
    with Kevin Reuter and Phillips Dustin
    The standard interpretation of quantum mechanics and a standard interpretation of the awareness of pain have a common feature: Both postulate the existence of an irresolvable duality. Whereas many physicists claim that all particles exhibit particle and wave properties, many philosophers working on pain argue that our awareness of pain is paradoxical, exhibiting both perceptual and introspective characteristics. In this chapter, we offer a pessimistic take on the putative paradox of pain. Specif…Read more
  • Philosophical orthodoxy holds that pains are mental states, taking this to reflect the ordinary conception of pain. Despite this, evidence is mounting that English speakers do not tend to conceptualize pains in this way; rather, they tend to treat pains as being bodily states. We hypothesize that this is driven by two primary factors—the phenomenology of feeling pains and the surface grammar of pain reports. There is reason to expect that neither of these factors is culturally specific, however,…Read more
  • The Two Sources of Moral Standing
    Review of Philosophy and Psychology 3 (3): 303-324. 2012.
    There are two primary traditions in philosophical theorizing about moral standing—one emphasizing Experience (the capacity to feel pain and pleasure) and one emphasizing Agency (complexity of cognition and lifestyle). In this article we offer an explanation for this divide: Lay judgments about moral standing depend importantly on two independent cues (Experience and Agency), and the two philosophical traditions reflect this aspect of folk moral cognition. In support of this two-source hypothesis…Read more