Survey-Driven Romanticism

Review of Philosophy and Psychology 1 (2):275-296 (2010)
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Abstract

Despite well-established results in survey methodology, many experimental philosophers have not asked whether and in what way conclusions about folk intuitions follow from people’s responses to their surveys. Rather, they appear to have proceeded on the assumption that intuitions can be simply read off from survey responses. Survey research, however, is fraught with difficulties. I review some of the relevant literature—particularly focusing on the conversational pragmatic aspects of survey research—and consider its application to common experimental philosophy surveys. I argue for two claims. First, that experimental philosophers’ survey methodology leaves the facts about folk intuitions massively underdetermined; and second, that what has been regarded as evidence for the instability of philosophical intuitions is, at least in some cases, better accounted for in terms of subjects’ reactions to subtle pragmatic cues contained in the surveys.

Author's Profile

Simon Cullen
Carnegie Mellon University

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