, Volume 191, Issue 16, pp 3865–3896 | Cite as

Why so negative? Evidence aggregation and armchair philosophy

  • Brian TalbotEmail author


This paper aims to clarify a debate on philosophical method, and to give a probabilistic argument vindicating armchair philosophy under a wide range of plausible assumptions. The use of intuitions by so-called armchair philosophers has been criticized on empirical grounds. The debate between armchair philosophers and their empirical critics would benefit from greater clarity and precision in our understanding of what it takes for intuition-based approaches to philosophy to make sense. This paper discusses a set of rigorous, probability-based tools for determining what we can and cannot learn from intuitions in various conditions. These tools can tell us whether beliefs can be justified by armchair practices, and what empirical findings would have to show to undermine the use of intuitions in philosophy. Using these tools, the paper shows that armchair philosophy makes sense in a broad range of situations, and that it is quite plausible that we are in those situations at the moment.


Intuitions Methodology Experimental philosophy   Evidence aggregation Bayes’ theorem Eyewitness 



I owe a great deal of thanks to Julia Staffel, Kenny Easwaran, Dom Bailey, Chris Heathwood, Eric Chwang, Tyler Hildebrand, Adam Keeney, Michael Tooley, Hanti Lin, and Christian Lee for helping me to sort out my arguments and ideas. Thank you also to Jonah Miller for his suggestions on some of the math. This paper also greatly benefitted from anonymous journal referees, whose feedback on previous versions pushed me to really work out the material in this final version.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Washington University in St. LouisSt. LouisUSA

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