•  14
    No Problem: Evidence that the Concept of Phenomenal Consciousness is Not Widespread
    with E. Ozdemir
    Journal of Consciousness Studies 26 (9-10): 241-256. 2019.
    The meta-problem is 'the problem of explaining why we think that there is a problem of consciousness' (Chalmers, 2018, p. 6). 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 (2010).
  •  17
    Research in the psychology of causal thinking has frequently revealed effects of normative considerations on causal attributions, where participants tend to assign causality more strongly to agents who violate a norm in bringing about an outcome. Across several experiments, we show that it is possible to reverse this norm effect when the outcome in question is good rather than bad: in these cases, participants assign causality more strongly to a norm-conforming agent than to an agent who violate…Read more
  •  11
    Causation, Responsibility, and Typicality
    Review of Philosophy and Psychology 1-21. forthcoming.
    There is ample evidence that violations of injunctive norms impact ordinary causal attributions. This has struck some as deeply surprising, taking the ordinary concept of causation to be purely descriptive. Our explanation of the findings—the responsibility view—rejects this: we contend that the concept is in fact partly normative, being akin to concepts like responsibility and accountability. Based on this account, we predicted a very different pattern of results for causal attributions when an…Read more
  •  12
    This paper trials new experimental methods for the analysis of natural language reasoning and the development of critical ordinary language philosophy in the wake of J.L. Austin. Philosophical arguments and thought experiments are strongly shaped by default pragmatic inferences, including stereotypical inferences. Austin suggested that contextually inappropriate stereotypical inferences are at the root of some philosophical paradoxes and problems, and that these can be resolved by exposing those…Read more
  • Experimental Philosophy and Philosophical Disputes
    Essays in Philosophy 13 (1): 145-161. 2012.
    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
  •  19
    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.
  •  10
    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
  •  13
    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
  •  44
    Actual Causation and Compositionality
    Philosophy of Science 87 (1): 43-69. 2020.
    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. We conclude by considering what philosophers working on causation should do when the deliverance…Read more
  •  15
    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
  •  24
    On experimental philosophy and the history of philosophy: a reply to Sorell
    British Journal for the History of Philosophy 27 (3): 635-647. 2019.
    ABSTRACTIn 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 …Read more
  •  29
    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
  •  11
    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
  •  10
    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
  •  25
    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
  •  8
    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.
  • Neuroscience & the nature of philosophy
    Iride: Filosofia e Discussione Pubblica 46 495-514. 2005.
  •  89
    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
  •  1348
    A New Perspective Concerning Experiments on Semantic Intuitions
    Australasian Journal of Philosophy 89 (2): 315-332. 2011.
    Machery, Mallon, Nichols, and Stich [2004; forthcoming] use experimental methods to raise a spectre of doubt about reliance on intuitions in developing theories of reference which are then deployed in philosophical arguments outside the philosophy of language. Machery et al. ran a cross-cultural survey asking Western and East Asian participants about a famous case from the philosophical literature on reference (Kripke's G del example). They interpret their results as indicating that there is sig…Read more
  •  86
    Semantic Intuitions: Reply to Lam
    with Edouard Machery, Max Deutsch, Ron Mallon, Shaun Nichols, and Stephen P. Stich
    Cognition 117 (3): 363-366. 2010.
  •  84
    Recent scientific work aiming to give a neurobiological explanation of phenomenal consciousness has largely focused on finding neural correlates of consciousness (NCC). The hope is that by locating neural correlates of phenomenally conscious mental states, some light will be cast on how the brain is able to give rise to such states. In this paper I argue that NCC research is unable to produce evidence of such neural correlates. I do this by considering two alternative interpretations of NCC rese…Read more
  •  462
    Information supply and demand: Resolving Sterelny's paradox of cultural accumulation
    In Nicolas Payette & Benoit Hardy-Valée (eds.), Connected Minds: Cognition and Interaction in the Social World, . 2012.
    Gene-Culture Coevolution (GCC) theory is an intriguing new entry in the quest to understand human culture. Nonetheless, it has received relatively little philosophical attention. One notable exception is Kim Sterelny’s (2006) critique which raises three primary objections against the GCC account. Most importantly, he argues that GCC theory, as it stands, is unable to resolve “the paradox of cultural accumulation” (151); that while social learning should generally be prohibitively expensive for t…Read more
  •  69
    Robot pains and corporate feelings
    The Philosophers' Magazine 52 (52): 78-82. 2011.
    Most philosophers of mind follow Thomas Nagel and hold that subjective experiences are characterised by the fact that there is “something it is like” to have them. Philosophers of mind have sometimes speculated that ordinary people endorse, perhaps implicitly, this conception of subjective experiences. Some recent findings cast doubt on this view.
  •  4
    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
  •  138
    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
  •  59
    Dennett’s Theory of the Folk Theory of Consciousness
    Journal of Consciousness Studies 17 (3-4): 3-4. 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
  •  26
    In this essay, we discuss how Descartes arrives at his mature view of material causation. Descartes’ position changes over time in some very radical ways. The last section spells out his final position as to how causation works in the world of material objects. When considering Descartes’ causal theories, it is useful to distinguish between ‘vertical’ and ‘horizontal’ causation. The vertical perspective addresses God’s relation to creation. God is essential being, and every being other than God …Read more
  •  360
    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