Sunday, April 11, 2010


There's not really anything new about experimental philosophy ("x-phi"), as Anthony Appiah explains in Experiments in Ethics. American philosophy in the spirit of James and Dewey is all over it. But some have been championing it's revival as a welcome alternative to the armchair philosophizing that has become so prevalent even among empiricists. I'm thinking it may be time to offer a course at MTSU. Anyone interested?


Jonathan said...

Very cool to see pragmatism folks getting interested in x-phi! Btw, you might be interested to know that Justin Sytsma, one of the big players in the next generation of x-philes, will be joining your sister institution in Johnson City in the fall. Y'all might want to have him down to Nashville for a talk!

(For that matter, you have a fair number of x-phi-interested people within about a 4-hour drive of MTSU: Bob Barnard at Ole Miss; Jeanine Weekes-Schroer at Arkansas State; and me up at IU. Also, Scott Aikin at Vandy is, I think, interested in the topic but is not a practitioner.)

Phil said...

Maybe we need to think about hosting an x-phi conference in Murfreesboro. What makes one a practitioner and not just an advocate? Falsifiable data, I guess. Anyway, it is cool to see "a new name for an old way of thinking" turning heads again!

Jonathan said...

That would be fun! I'm a Memphis boy, myself, and I always enjoy a trip to Nashville, especially if I get a chance at some biscuits from the Loveless Cafe. :-) I don't think I've been to Murfreesboro proper since a high school football game, however.

I don't know if I had anything clearly in mind, but I reckon one could distinguish between:
--philosophers actually involved in conducting studies;
--philosophers who are in favor of the former, but who don't do such studies themselves;
--philosophers who find the questions raised by all this interesting to examine, but either without taking sides or perhaps arguing for the "who needs data?" side.

I've stolen an idea or two from James in my own work -- a kind of James-meets-Edward-Craig's _Knowledge and the State of Nature_ hybrid -- but it'd be interesting to see whether x-phi could be a point of richer contact between the pragmatist tradition and "mainstream" analytic philosophy.

Phil said...

Well, I'm all for those conversations. But I note that Appiah's last word is to take that data to the armchair. Information is still no substitute for reflection, though of course reflection without data really is blind. I like "hybrid" approaches, though my own tough-and-tender composite view may strike some analytic types as incoherent.

You a baseball fan, Jonathan? It'd be a shame to come from Memphis and not be. Go Redbirds!

Jonathan said...

Well, sure. I don't think anyone in x-phi has ever said that we can do without reflection, theorizing, etc. It's more about what should be informing those reflections, and how we should treat our intuitive premises.

The Redbirds weren't there yet when I was growing up -- we had the AA-league Memphis Chicks, actually, who, um, kinda sucked. But I love going to Redbirds games now! Mmmm, bbq nachos.... Accelerating Intelligence News