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Working Group 30 X-Phi – Experimental Philosophy Group (2013–2017)

Experimental philosophy, also called X-Phi, is a new way to understand philosophy. It consists of applying experimental methods to address classical philosophical questions. This new trend has received special attention primarily in Anglo-Saxon philosophy – in the United Kingdom and the United States, the first philosophical experimental laboratories have been established. To date, various experiments in the field of moral philosophy, the philosophy of mind and aesthetics have been carried out and integrated in the philosophical discourse. This new understanding of philosophy has aroused both enthusiasm and strong rejection in the philosophical community.

The aim of this working group was to process the following questions in relation to this new philosophy concept. These questions revolved around four thematic axes:

A. The Question of the Legitimacy of the Task

One of the first questions our group examined the legitimacy of the use of experiments for the study of philosophical questions. What role should experiments play for philosophy? Here, we were also be examining the question of to what extent we are dealing with a "new" philosophical trend and to what extent it is in continuity with philosophical tradition. In this context, we examined the distinction between empirical and experimental philosophy in closer detail.

B. Definition of the Working Sphere: Object and Method

Another objective of the working group was to define on the one hand the object field and the method of experimental philosophy, and on the other hand to examine the boundaries between experimental philosophy and other "neighboring disciplines" such as cognitive sciences or psychology. In this context, the question was examined as to what extent the objects and the methods of experimental philosophy are related to the objects and methods of these other disciplines or if they are similar and whether they have complementarity. The exact methods of experimental philosophy were presented, examined and put to test. Here, the role of concept analysis, thought experiments or introspection was to be dealt with more closely.

C. Possible Fields of Application

To more precisely determine the meaning of this new philosophical current, our working group looked exemplarily at results of experimental philosophy in areas such as moral philosophy, the philosophy of mind and aesthetics. Here, we were particularly interested in the correlation between certain philosophical issues and the development of an experiment by means of which important elements may be found in regard to a possible answer to the various questions. The practical application of experimental philosophy experiments was put to the test and compared with the treatment of similar issues in other disciplines and areas of philosophy.

D. The Experimental Philosophy Lab

Within this current, a great emphasis was placed not only on the role of the experiment, but also on the constitution of experimental philosophical laboratories. This working group also focused its attention on how these laboratories are designed, what is done in them and what differentiates them from other laboratories.

In summary, it can be said that in the Working Group 30 X-Phi – Experimental Philosophy Group, the role of experimental methods for exploring philosophical topics and issues was discussed and examined.
Anyone interested, either with a philosophy background or from other academic disciplines, was welcome to attend.

Past Events

The Working Group X-Phi – Experimental Philosophy Group organised the congress "Möglichkeiten und Grenzen der Experimentellen Philosophie" that was held on June 19 and 20, 2014 in Marburg, at the Center for Near and Middle Eastern Studies. You can find more information in the conference program (PDF, in German).