(Philosophical) Disagreements are not Rational

by gwern 8y2nd Jun 20116 comments


This is a combination news-announcement and begging for someone with academic subscriptions to maybe jailbreak a PDF for us.

"Persistent bias in expert judgments about free will and moral responsibility: A test of the expertise defense" (emphasis added):

"Many philosophers appeal to intuitions to support some philosophical views. However, there is reason to be concerned about this practice as scientific evidence has documented systematic bias in philosophically relevant intuitions as a function of seemingly irrelevant features (e.g., personality). One popular defense used to insulate philosophers from these concerns holds that philosophical expertise eliminates the influence of these extraneous factors. Here, we test this assumption. We present data suggesting that verifiable philosophical expertise in the free will debate—as measured by a reliable and validated test of expert knowledge—does not eliminate the influence of one important extraneous feature (i.e., the heritable personality trait extraversion) on judgments concerning freedom and moral responsibility. These results suggest that, in at least some important cases, the expertise defense fails. Implications for the practice of philosophy, experimental philosophy, and applied ethics are discussed."

Linked from http://experimentalphilosophy.typepad.com/experimental_philosophy/2011/06/failure-of-the-expertise-defense-persistent-bias-in-expert-intuitions-.html which elaborates:

"For example, our research suggests that heritable personality traits predict bias in some fundamental philosophically relevant intuitions (Feltz & Cokely 2008, 2009; Cokely & Feltz, 2009; Feltz, Perez, & Harris, in press; Feltz, Harris, & Perez, 2010). In response to these findings, “philosophical expertise” has been used to shield some parts of standard philosophical practice from the worries presented by experimental philosophers (e.g., Ludwig, 2007; Kauppinen 2007; Horvarth, 2010; Sosa, 2010; Williamson, 2007, 2011). One important part of the “Expertise Defense” is that philosophers are assumed to be relevantly different from the folk (e.g., as a result of their years of training) and consequently philosophers' intuitions shouldn’t display the same (or similar) biases.

But more recently, there have been serious concerns raised by experimental philosophers about the Expertise Defense. Some have used indirect strategies suggesting that philosophical expertise is unlike expertise in areas known to result in the relevant differences (e.g., in chess) (Weinberg, Gonnerman, Buckner, & Alexander, 2010 see related discussion here). Others have opted for direct strategies showing that for many important everyday behaviors (e.g., voting, returning library books, showing common courtesy) philosophers often display the same (or similar) biases as the folk (Schwitzgebel 2009; Schwitzgebel & Rust, 2010, 2009; Schwitzgebel & Cushman, in press). In a new paper (Schulz, Cokely, & Feltz, in press), we also adopt the direct strategy and present the first evidence that personality predicts persistent bias in verifiable expert intuitions about free will and moral responsibility. These results suggest that, in at least some important fundamental philosophical debates, the Expertise Defense fails"