Grad Conference Schedule is Announced

Grad Conference Schedule is Announced

Experimental Philosophy: Possibilities and Limits

16th Annual Graduate Student Philosophy Conference
Philosophy Program, The Graduate Center, City University of New York

April 5-6, 2013
Professor Joshua Knobe (Yale) and Professor Jennifer Nagel (University of Toronto) will give keynote lectures.

Schedule XPhi

Graduate Presentations

Incompatibilist About What?

Hoi-yee Chan, University of Hong Kong


There is a debate in experimental philosophy over whether ordinary people are intuitive compatibilists about determinism and moral responsibility. Early studies (Nahmias, Morris, Nadelhoffer and Turner, 2005, 2006) have suggested that they are, but further studies by Nichols and Knobe (2007) have revealed what appears to be significant support among ordinary people for incompatibilism. One interesting issue that has emerged in this debate is whether the subjects surveyed acquire a proper understanding of the thesis of determinism from the surveys. In particular, Nahmias and Murray (2010) have argued, on empirical grounds, that subjects who give incompatibilist answers tend to misunderstand determinism as entailing a phenomenon that they call “bypassing”, and it is this misunderstanding of determinism’s consequences that causes the subjects’ apparently incompatibilist judgments. This paper aims to examine Nahmias and Murray’s argument regarding people’s incompatibilist intuitions and bypassing judgments by first, challenging the empirical support for Nahmias and Murray’s argument and, second, suggesting an alternative explanation for people’s bypassing judgments on the basis of new experimental results.


Epistemic Virtues of the Imagination

Benjamin Freed, Georgia State University


Imagination is an epistemic virtue. In fact, imagination is a superlative epistemic virtue. In arguing for this claim, I’ll provide a unifying account of epistemically virtuous imagining. My account will consist of two steps: (1) identifying the relevant similarity between imagination and the other epistemic virtues; (2) identifying the distinct epistemic features of imagination that distinguish and elevate it above the other epistemic virtues. I’ll attempt step (1) in §3. I’ll attempt step (2) in §4. Before I do either, in §2, I’ll clarify the meaning of my thesis and explain its relevance to epistemology and cognitive science.


Is the property of being a phoneme represented in perceptual experience?

Madison Kilbride, Princeton University

Which properties do humans represent in perceptual experience? Some philosophers maintain that only lower-level properties like shape, color, loudness, etc. are represented in perceptual experience. However, several philosophers have argued that we also perceptually represent higher-level properties like causal relations and kind properties. In this paper I ask whether we perceptually represent speech sounds as phonemes. Although phonemes have traditionally been regarded as lower-level properties, I argue that the property of being a phoneme should actually be counted among the higher-level properties. Recently, a few philosophers have attempted to show that certain properties are represented in perception by contrasting two experiences that differ with respect to their phenomenal characters without an accompanying change in lower-level perceptual content. In this paper I present a phenomenal contrast argument that can be used to show that the property of being a phoneme is represented in perceptual experience. I then consider the possibility that the phenomenological difference in my contrast case could instead be attributed to a change in non-sensory phenomenology, particularly to a change in cognitive phenomenology stemming from the deployment of phoneme concepts.


Experimental Philosophy: Failures of Replication

Hamid Seyedsayamdost, University of London

Experimental philosophy is often described as the study of philosophical questions, using the tools of experimental psychology. However, by adopting the methods of experimental psychology, philosophers will inevitably import some of the problems of experimental psychology. In this paper we would like to present some of our findings of failed replication attempts. Throughout the past years, we attempted to replicate several findings from the experimental philosophy literature, including experiments on cultural and socioeconomic differences of epistemic intuitions, gender differences on various classes of philosophical questions and manipulations of moral judgments. In specific, we attempted replications of Weinberg et al. (2001), Buckwalter and Stich (2011), Valdesolo and DeSteno (2006) and Zhong et al. (2010), amongst others. We failed to replicate a number of results contained in these papers and some papers in their entirety. Although more research is needed to evaluate the robustness of these findings, we do not believe some of the effects to be replicable and the published record will likely have to be corrected.


Moral Judgment and Empathic Perspective-Taking

Jonathan Vanderhoek, University of Texas, Austin

Sometimes we need to take others emotions into account when making moral judgments. This accounting though is not always easy. In these cases we need to use different psychological resources to grasp the others’ experiences. Empathic perspective-taking is a complex psychological process that produces an emotion congruent with another’s. The experience of this emotion provides insight into the other’s experience. In this way empathic perspective-taking performs an epistemic function that supports the making of informed moral judgments. Several theorists in the literature deny that perspective-taking plays this role. However, their challenges fail. Empathic perspective-taking is an important epistemic resource. The better skilled persons are at knowing when and how to use it, the better equipped they are to make moral judgments in situations involving others’ emotions. Not everyone is capable of using perspective-taking, but for those who are, excellence at moral judgment requires a proficiency in using perspective-taking.


Intuitions aren’t on the rocks. On Cappelen, intuitions, and initial credence.

Tomasz Wysocki, University of Wrocław

In his recent book, Philosophy without Intuitions (2012), Cappelen attacks the assumption that the evaluation of thought experiments requires intuition. He argues that there is no evidence that intuitive claims, as characterized by intuition theorists, are used in evaluating hypothetical cases. One straightforward ramification of his stance is that if intuitions are not used in justifying philosophical theories, empirical studies of intuitive responses are philosophically inconsequential.

In my presentation I intend to show that Cappelen misconstrues both the theories of intuitions and philosophical practice. I also point out some undesirable consequences of his account, and offer a competing characterization of intuitions on which intuitions’ significant role in philosophy is preserved.