The experimental and the empirical: Arne Naess' statistical approach to philosophy

Chapman, SR ORCID: 0000-0003-0658-0272
(2018) The experimental and the empirical: Arne Naess' statistical approach to philosophy. British Journal for the History of Philosophy, 26 (5). 961 - 981.

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Experimental philosophy often draws its data from questionnaire-based surveys of ordinary intuitions. Its proponents are keen to identify antecedents in the work of philosophers who have referred to intuition and everyday understanding [e.g. Knobe, Joshua, and Shaun Nichols, ‘An Experimental Philosophy Manifesto’. In Experimental Philosophy, edited by Joshua Knobe and Shaun Nichols, 3–14. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007]. In this context, ‘Empirical Semantics’, pioneered by Arne Naess early in the twentieth century, offers striking parallels. Naess believed that much contemporary philosophy was unempirical because it made no reference to ordinary understanding or use of language. In response, he attempted large-scale studies of ordinary understanding of philosophically significant terms [e.g. Naess, Arne. ‘Truth’ as Conceived by Those Who Are Not Professional Philosophers. Oslo: Jacob Dybwad, 1938]. This article will compare Empirical Semantics and experimental philosophy, and assess what such a comparison reveals that might not be apparent from a consideration of either in isolation. It will concentrate on two points of comparison: the wider philosophical ambitions of the two approaches, and the types of criticisms they have encountered. Naess was straightforwardly interested in folk intuitions as philosophical data, whereas many experimental philosophers are also interested in explaining the intuitions themselves. A comparison of the different types of criticism reveals attitudes to philosophical practice which have recurred across a time period of some eighty years, and those which are more specific to historical context.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Arne Naess, empirical semantics, experimental philosophy, truth theories
Depositing User: Symplectic Admin
Date Deposited: 31 May 2017 11:24
Last Modified: 16 Apr 2021 11:49
DOI: 10.1080/09608788.2017.1336075
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