Philosophical Intuitions Are Surprisingly Stable

Joshua Knobe in Daily Nous:

When it comes to many philosophical issues, people feel conflicted or confused. There is something drawing them toward one intuition but also something drawing them toward the exact opposite intuition. This tension seems to be an important aspect of what makes us regard these issues as important philosophical problems in the first place.

In a new draft paper, I argue that experimental philosophy research over the past decade or so has shown us something very surprising about these issues. It has shown that the tensions in people’s intuitions are themselves stable. In particular, these tensions seem to be surprisingly stable both across different demographic groups and across different situations.

To illustrate, consider the problem of free will. Existing studies on people from Western cultures indicate that there is a tension in their intuitions. There is something is drawing them toward compatibilism but also something drawing them toward incompatibilism. More recent studies have shown something very surprising about that tension. The tension seems to itself be stable across cultures. In other words, it’s not as though there are other cultures in which just about everyone thinks that compatibilism or incompatibilism is obviously right. Rather, people across numerous different cultures seem to find this issue confusing, and in much the same way.

More here.