What methods can and should philosophy apply in order to make progress? The answer to this question largely depends on what questions we believe philosophy should address.
Fortunately, Niklas Grouols and Laura Martena from the University of Cologne will provide a great opportunity to discuss these issues. They invited great philosophers to give talks on what philosophy aims to achieve and what methods they have at their disposal to do so. And experimental philosophy is definitely one of those methods that deserves attention but also asks for a very careful and conscious reflection. That’s where I will come in!
In my talk, I will argue that moral philosophy can benefit greatly from experimental work. Many researchers already accept that moral philosophy needs a solid empirical foundation and that philosophers need to be aware of relevant studies in the empirical sciences. There is yet large disagreement on the extent to which such evidence matters. Are empirical facts about, say, human psychology equally relevant to a metaethics, normative ethics and applied ethics? In addition, the new methodological approach called experimental philosophy raises additional questions. Why should philosophers care about conducting experiments themselves? One might argue that this is not what they are trained to do and not what they are supposed to do.
In my talk I will argue for the necessity of a naturalistic, empirically informed moral philosophy. And I will further argue that experimental philosophy provides an invaluable opportunity for philosophers to take matters in their own hand and not only be recipients of empirical data, but generate them themselves and tailored to their specific needs. I will use a couple of very concrete examples from experimental philosophy to make this case, e.g. from debates about free will, moral responsibility, and thick ethical concepts.