Polling as Pedagogy

Teaching Philosophy 31 (1):39-58 (2008)
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First, we briefly familiarize the reader with the emerging field of “experimental philosophy,” in which philosophers use empirical methods, rather than armchair speculation, to ascertain laypersons’ intuitions about philosophical issues. Second, we discuss how the surveys used by experimental philosophers can serve as valuable pedagogical tools for teaching philosophy—independently of whether one believes surveying laypersons is an illuminating approach to doing philosophy. Giving students surveys that contain questions and thought experiments from philosophical debates gets them to actively engage with the material and paves the way for more fruitful and impassioned classroom discussion. We offer some suggestions for how to use surveys in the classroom and provide an appendix that contains some examples of scenarios teachers could use in their courses.

Author Profiles

Eddy Nahmias
Georgia State University
Thomas Nadelhoffer
College of Charleston


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