If so, you may be interested in the NY Times Room for Debate on X-phi’s new take on old problems.
Regular readers will know we have a negative attitude toward things that contribute to the image of philosophy as a men’s preserve. However, having suffered the slings and arrows of retrograde philosophers (as he sees them), I confess I was mollified by Brian Leiter’s remark:
The idea that philosophical work on these topics could proceed independently of what is now called “cognitive science” — an idea some retrograde philosophers still embrace — is unfortunate. By the same token, cognitive science needs philosophy, to clarify its findings and frame their import.
And then made the mistake of reading Tim Maudlin (“All of reality is the subject matter of philosophy, so any methods that help reveal how things are can be relevant to some philosophical research.”) and Timothy Williamson:
There are philosophy-hating philosophers who would like to replace the traditional methodology of philosophy, with their stress on a combination of abstract reasoning and particular examples, by something more like imitation psychology. Without even properly defining what it is they are attacking, they use experimental results in a selective and unscientific spirit to try to discredit the traditional methodology.
In other cases experimentalists draw lessons for morality from the results of brain scans in comically naive ways, without realizing how many philosophical assumptions they are uncritically relying on in their inferences — precisely because they neglect traditional philosophical skills in making distinctions and assessing arguments.
(The experimentalists are experimental philosophers, I believe.) Now I have a headache and am feeling cross. Philosophers can easily look bad when ask in effect to make general remarks about philosophy, and being reminded of that doesn’t make the exclusion of women any easier to take.
It’s easy to read Williamson as reacting defensively to a sense of being under attack. I think that would be a mistake. Or at least one might consider another explanation: what we see is a sense that fueled much of the British Raj’s approach to Indians; namely, one simply has to put the natives right. It is one’s duty to inform them of how things should be done.
The discussion is based around the question of whether experimental philosophy can help embattled philosophy departments. It is interesting that in setting the debate up, the NY Times illustrates a problem that may well be one of phiosophy’s worse: that it appears elitist and exclusionary.
Finally, it would be lovely to find Williamson has defended his remarks about philosohers and brain scans. He employs the cliches for dismissing this work, much of them based on an ignorance of the real power and problems of such techniques; it would be much harder to argue for his conclusions, and it would be fun to see him give it a go.