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Reproducibility of empirical findings: experiments in philosophy and beyond

Seyedsayamdost, Hamid (2014) Reproducibility of empirical findings: experiments in philosophy and beyond. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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The field of experimental philosophy has received considerable attention, essentially for producing results that seem highly counter-intuitive and at the same time question some of the fundamental methods used in philosophy. A substantial part of this attention has focused on the role of intuitions in philosophical methodology. One of the major contributions of experimental philosophy on this topic has been concrete evidence in support of intuitional diversity; the idea that intuitions vary systematically depending on variables such as ethnicity, socioeconomic background, or gender. Because of the important implications, these findings have been the subject of extensive debate. Despite the seeming significance of the findings and despite all the debates that the experimental philosophy movement has prompted, what has not been examined systematically is the reproducibility of the results. Instead, the reported findings have been simply accepted as established facts. We set out to replicate a wide range of experiments and surprisingly failed to reproduce many of the reported findings, some of which are from the most cited and attention grabbing papers of the field. We draw two conclusions from our findings. The first is that the instability of intuitions has been exaggerated by experimental philosophers. Intuitions appear to be more uniform across different demographic groups. The argument that intuitions need to be discarded because they depend on arbitrary factors such as ethnicity, socioeconomic background, or gender does not seem tenable anymore. The second conclusion is that experimental philosophy needs a better system to ensure the reproducibility of published findings. The current research-publication system of various empirical fields, especially those employing statistical methods, leads to an overproduction of false-positive findings in the published literature. Unless changes are made to the current research-publication system, this overproduction is likely to continue, in experimental philosophy as well as other disciplines.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2014 Seyedhamidreza Seyedsayamdost
Library of Congress subject classification: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
Sets: Departments > Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method

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