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Posts Tagged ‘thought experiment

Experimental philosophy gets real

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“Ten bucks an hour? Sweet!”

A new study confirms what philosophers have long suspected: ordinary folk disapprove of violently killing innocent bystanders. Published this week in Science, the study is turning heads less for its conclusion and more for its methods. Studying folk intuitions in moral dilemmas is nothing new. But in response to criticism that his laboratory experiments lack ecological validity, Harvard’s Joshua Greene decided to take his research out of the lab and into the field.

“Sure, people will say that pushing a man in front of a speeding trolley is wrong on paper,” says Greene, the study’s lead author. “But what happens when they actually get out there and kill a man? Still wrong? Nobody knew because nobody had tested it.”

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February 25, 2012 at 4:16 pm

Kripke resigns as report alleges he faked results of thought experiments

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“Did I tamper with the results? It’s possible.” Uttered by anyone else, this would be a damaging admission.

Saul Kripke resigned yesterday from his position as Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the CUNY Graduate Center.  While similar allegations have been circulating in unpublished form for years, a team of philosophers from Oxford University has just released a damning report claiming that they were systematically unable to reproduce the results of thought experiments reported by Kripke in his groundbreaking Naming and Necessity.  The team, led by Timothy Williamson, first became suspicious of Naming and Necessity after preliminary results raised questions about related work by Hilary Putnam.  While the group was initially unable to confirm that water is H2O on Twin Earth, the results turned out to be due to contaminated research materials—one of the researchers’ minds had been contaminated by Chomskyan internalist semantics.

The inability to replicate Kripke’s results could not be similarly explained away, however, as the researcher in question was excluded from the analysis of Naming and Necessity.  The report, forthcoming in Philosophical Studies, claims that 74% of the book’s thought-experimental results could not be reproduced using the standard philosophical criteria for inter-researcher agreement.  A second version of the analysis, employing a generous application of the principle of charity, still left 52% of the results unverified.

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