X-phi is Here to Stay


Richard Marshall interviews Chris Weigel in 3:AM Magazine:

3:AM: By 2009 you were enthusiastically supporting X-phi. You wrote a paper‘Experimental Philosophy Is here To Stay’. Why did you write that? Was there a feeling at the time that the approach needed defending?

CW: Yes, it did need defending and explaining and sometimes still does. In 2009, I bumped into someone at a conference who said, “Oh, you’re doing that? That’s too bad. I read a paper that refutes it.” And my thought was, “Which ‘it’ are we talking about? The projects are really diverse, and it seems unlikely that one argument could refute all of them at once.” Over time, that person and the field in general has become much more sympathetic. Writing the paper was a way not so much of defending but of explaining experimental philosophy systematically. After attending the phenomenal Experimental Philosophy summer workshop directed by Ron Mallon and Shaun Nichols, I wanted to try to explainexperimental philosophy to a wide audience.

3:AM: When talking about this approach to philosophy Josh Knobe, Shaun Nichols andothers give the impression that it is a more collaborative approach than the traditional, armchair variety. Have you found this to be the case in your own experience? It seems very cool and unstuffy. Josh Knobe in his interview said he feared ending up as being just an academic stuck being read by a couple of other academics. X-phi seems to be a way of escaping this fear. Is this something that you relate to?

CW: Yes, and if you look at how so many of the major papers have co-authors, you’ll see that experimental philosophers tend to work collaboratively. I’ve also had many more opportunities for collaboration since starting in experimental philosophy. And I think you’re right about that the research tends to be, as you say, cool and unstuffy. I think of it like this: When my daughter was fifteen months old, I took her to a pumpkin patch, and she was so excited, she started uttering—screaming, really—her first sentence while pointing all around: “Look at that! Look at that! Look at that!” Experimental philosophy presentations have much the same feel. They offer a pumpkin patch full of philosophically rich ideas just waiting to be explored.