Presentation on theme: "Dan Weijers Victoria University of Wellington June 2011."— Presentation transcript:
Dan Weijers Victoria University of Wellington June 2011
Lots of experimental philosophy is designed to test empirical premises like: We would not plug in Philosophers working in… experimental philosophy have begun… to collect data about folk intuitions Nahmias, E., et al. (2007). Surveying Freedom: Folk Intuitions about Free Will and Moral Responsibility, Philosophical Psychology, 18(5): 561. But lots also just wants to understand how judgements about thought experiments are formed: [To] use the methods of experimental psychology to probe the way people make judgments that bear on debates in philosophy Nadelhoffer, T. & Nahmias, E. (2007). The Past and Future of Experimental Philosophy, Philosophical Explorations, 10(2): 123.
Typical argument: 1. If pleasure = g. good, then wed plug in 2. We would not plug in 3. Therefore, pleasure g. good Test P2 (if true, go to next step, if false, then claim the argument fails) ACP: you did a faulty test: the wrong we or procedural bias Tweak supposedly irrelevant factor of thought experiment, test again, and compare results (if different in right way, claim that P1 is false because irrelevant factors unduly influence judgements) ACP: You did a faulty test: the wrong we, or procedural bias, or added other irrelevant factors with your tweak
We cant usefully test thought experiments with surveys when… Respondents need to adopt the role of confronted agents… i.e. when they have to predict what they would do if the scenario were real Usually involves confusion, incredulity, fear, etc. Smith, B. (2011). Can We Test the Experience Machine?, Ethical Perspectives, 18(1): 45. Because participants judgements about what they would do would otherwise not be made from the correct frame of mind… leading to the possibility that They might report what they think they should do or what the experimenter wants to hear instead of what they would actually do
Our survey tests of thought experiments are less useful to the extent that: Respondents need to adopt the role of confronted agents When they anticipate their own futures, and/or They identify with the moral decisions of others Smith, B. (2011). Can We Test the Experience Machine?, Ethical Perspectives, 18(1): 46. The survey suffers from methodological weaknesses Sampling Participant ineptitude Procedural bias: prepping, wording, question order (Grice)
…the inverted experience machine, as well as other[s]… have a unique set of characteristics that make it impossible to gather the right subjects to test. Therefore, in practice, these thought experiments are impossible to test. Smith, B. (2011). Can We Test the Experience Machine?, Ethical Perspectives, 18(1): 37. (My emphasis)
…unique set of characteristics…: Requirement that participants adopt the role of confronted agents When they anticipate their own futures – e.g. when asked what would you do? Requirement for being a partially confronted agent: When they anticipate their own futures…, or attempt to identify with the moral decisions of others, to some extent (Smith, 2011, p 46) Setup makes it impossible for participants to adopt the role of confronted agents Surveys that address thought experiments about moral dilemmas (Smith, 2011, p 44) – Infer: all options involve significant losses? Participants opinion asked for via survey, rather than behaviour observed in actual case (Smith, 2011, p 39 + elsewhere)
Requirement that participants adopt the role of confronted agents: When they anticipate their own futures (Smith, 2011, p 46) – e.g. ask what would you do? This requirement is not met Anticipating their own futures is not a necessary aspect of the Inverted Experience Machine E.g. What should a stranger choose in the Inverted Experience Machine case?
Requirement for being a partially confronted agent: When they anticipate their own futures…, or attempt to identify with the moral decisions of others, to some extent (Smith, 2011, p 46) This requirement is faulty Just because participants have to attempt to identify with the moral decisions of others does not always mean that they need to get (at all) emotional to give a useful response In fact making rational (not emotional) decisions is what we expect of those making important decisions on behalf of others in lots of cases E.g. policymakers – should uni be free?
Amended requirement for being a partially confronted agent: When they anticipate their own futures…, or attempt to identify with the moral decisions of others, to some extent [in some cases] This requirement does not apply to some cases of testing the Inverted Experience Machine When deciding if someone should stick with a machine life or go to reality we are better of putting emotions (confusion, incredulity, fear, etc.) behind us. And, when trying to learn about what people think we should really value in a life, the same goes
Its not clear where Smith stands on this If we cant test the IEM because we dont get emotional, can philosophers make any use of it? Did anyone feel confusion, incredulity, and fear etc. about the thought experiments? If not, then (according to Smiths framework) your judgement about it is useless Maybe Smith doesnt mind this result – Im not sure
Smith 1: thought experiments that require confronted agent respondents cannot be usefully surveyed because the appropriate emotions dont come up Smith 2: Inverted Exp. Mach. requires confronted agent respondents Smith 3: Therefore, Inverted Exp. Mach. cannot be usefully surveyed Me: not all Inverted Exp. Mach.s require confronted agent respondents Me: if Smith 1 is correct, then all use of dilemmas in philosophy is a waste of time or at least less useful than is usually thought