Metaphysics and Conceptual Analysis: Experimental Philosophy's Place under the Sun

In D. Rose (ed.), Experimental Metaphysics. New York: Bloomsbury Academic. pp. 7-46 (2017)
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What is the rationale for the methodological innovations of experimental philosophy? This paper starts from the contention that common answers to this question are implausible. It then develops a framework within which experimental philosophy fulfills a specific function in an otherwise traditionalist picture of philosophical inquiry. The framework rests on two principal ideas. The first is Frank Jackson’s claim that conceptual analysis is unavoidable in ‘serious metaphysics’. The second is that the psychological structure of concepts is extremely intricate, much more so than early practitioners of conceptual analysis had realized. This intricacy has implications for the activity of analyzing concepts: while the central, coarser, more prominent contours of a concept may be identified from the armchair, the finer details of the concept’s structure require experimental methods to detect.
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