Using fMRI in experimental philosophy: Exploring the prospects

In Eugen Fischer & Mark Curtis (eds.), Methodological Advances in Experimental Philosophy. London: Bloomsbury (2019)
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This chapter analyses the prospects of using neuroimaging methods, in particular functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), for philosophical purposes. To do so, it will use two case studies from the field of emotion research: Greene et al. (2001) used fMRI to uncover the mental processes underlying moral intuitions, while Lindquist et al. (2012) used fMRI to inform the debate around the nature of a specific mental process, namely, emotion. These studies illustrate two main approaches in cognitive neuroscience: Reverse inference and ontology testing, respectively. With regards to Greene et al.’s study, the use of Neurosynth (Yarkoni 2011) will show that the available formulations of reverse inference, although viable a priori, seem to be of limited use in practice. On the other hand, the discussion of Lindquist et al.’s study will present the so far neglected potential of ontology-testing approaches to inform philosophical questions.
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