How not to test for philosophical expertise
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Recent empirical work appears to suggest that the moral intuitions of professional philosophers are just as vulnerable to distorting psychological factors as are those of ordinary people. This paper assesses these recent tests of the ‘expertise defense’ of philosophical intuition. I argue that the use of familiar cases and principles constitutes a methodological problem. Since these items are familiar to philosophers, but not ordinary people, the two subject groups do not confront identical cognitive tasks. Reflection on this point shows that these findings do not threaten philosophical expertise—though we can draw lessons for more effective empirical tests.
KeywordsExpertise defense Methodology Moral intuition Philosophical intuition
Thanks to Wesley Buckwalter, Eric Schwitzgebel, Kevin Tobia, Guy Kahane, Simon Rippon, and two anonymous referees for Synthese for helpful comments on drafts of this paper, and to Nora Heinzelmann, Shaun Nichols, and Steven Lukes and the NYU Sociology of Morality Working Group for discussion. This research received sponsorship from the VolkswagenStiftung’s European Platform for Life Sciences, Mind Sciences, and the Humanities (grant II/85 063).
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