Projects and Methods of Experimental Philosophy

In Alexander Max Bauer & Stephan Kornmesser (eds.), The Compact Compendium of Experimental Philosophy. Berlin: De Gruyter. pp. 39-70 (2023)
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How does experimental philosophy address philosophical questions and problems? That is: What projects does experimental philosophy pursue? What is their philosophical relevance? And what empirical methods do they employ? Answers to these questions will reveal how experimental philosophy can contribute to the longstanding ambition of placing philosophy on the ‘secure path of a science’, as Kant put it. We argue that experimental philosophy has introduced a new methodological perspective – a ‘meta-philosophical naturalism’ that addresses philosophical questions about a phenomenon by empirically investigating how people think about this phenomenon. This chapter asks how this novel perspective can be successfully implemented: How can the empirical investigation of how people think about something address genuinely philosophical problems? And what methods – and, specifically, what methods beyond the questionnaire – can this investigation employ? We first review core projects of experimental philosophy and raise the question of their philosophical relevance. For ambitious answers, we turn to experimental philosophy’s most direct historical precursor, mid-20th century ordinary language philosophy, and discuss empirical implementations of two of its research programmes that use experimental methods from psycholinguistics and corpus methods from the digital humanities.

Author Profiles

Eugen Fischer
University of East Anglia
Justin Sytsma
Victoria University of Wellington


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