Experimental Philosophy and the Fruitfulness of Normative Concepts

Philosophical Studies:1-24 (forthcoming)
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This paper provides a new argument for the relevance of empirical research to moral and political philosophy and a novel defense of the positive program in experimental philosophy. The argument centers on the idea that normative concepts used in moral and political philosophy can be evaluated in terms of their fruitfulness in solving practical problems. Empirical research conducted with an eye to the practical problems that are relevant to particular concepts can provide evidence of their fruitfulness along a number of dimensions. An upshot of the argument is that philosophers should not only engage with but must also be involved in conducting experimental studies that examine the practical roles that normative concepts can play. Rather than just clearing the way for philosophical work to be done, the argument has the further implication that empirical research will be required to advance at least some important debates in moral and political philosophy.
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