Over at his website, Sean Carroll has called my attention to a paper by David Bourget and David J. Chalmers called “What do philosophers believe?” (free download here, reference below). I must admit I’ve only scanned the paper, but the interesting results (highlighted by Sean) reflect whether or not the philosophers agree with various viewpoints and claims.
The survey population is this:
Instead, we chose as a target group all regular faculty members in 99 leading departments of philosophy. These include the 86 Ph.D.-granting departments in Englishspeaking countries rated 1.9 or above in the Philosophical Gourmet Report. They also include ten departments in non-English-speaking countries (all from continental Europe) and three non-Ph-D.-granting departments. These thirteen departments were chosen in consultation with the editor of the Gourmet Report and a number of other philosophers, on the grounds of their having strength in analytic philosophy comparable to the other 86 departments. The overall list included 62 departments in the US, 18 in the UK, 10 in Europe outside the UK, 7 in Canada, and 5 in Australasia.
There were 1972 philosophers surveyed by email in 2009. Their viewpoints on thirty issues are as follows. The philosophers among you will understand the questions; I make no pretense to understanding most of the issues. I have, however, put the ones that most interested me in red.
1. A priori knowledge: yes 71.1%; no 18.4%; other 10.5%.
2. Abstract objects: Platonism 39.3%; nominalism 37.7%; other 23.0%.
3. Aesthetic value: objective 41.0%; subjective 34.5%; other 24.5%.
4. Analytic-synthetic distinction: yes 64.9%; no 27.1%; other 8.1%.
5. Epistemic justiﬁcation: externalism 42.7%; internalism 26.4%; other 30.8%.
6. External world: non-skeptical realism 81.6%; skepticism 4.8%; idealism 4.3%; other 9.2%.
7. Free will: compatibilism 59.1%; libertarianism 13.7%; no free will 12.2%; other 14.9%.
8. God: atheism 72.8%; theism 14.6%; other 12.6%.
9. Knowledge claims: contextualism 40.1%; invariantism 31.1%; relativism 2.9%; other 25.9%.
10. Knowledge: empiricism 35.0%; rationalism 27.8%; other 37.2%.
11. Laws of nature: non-Humean 57.1%; Humean 24.7%; other 18.2%.
12. Logic: classical 51.6%; non-classical 15.4%; other 33.1%.
13. Mental content: externalism 51.1%; internalism 20.0%; other 28.9%.
14. Meta-ethics: moral realism 56.4%; moral anti-realism 27.7%; other 15.9%.
15. Metaphilosophy: naturalism 49.8%; non-naturalism 25.9%; other 24.3%.
16. Mind: physicalism 56.5%; non-physicalism 27.1%; other 16.4%.
17. Moral judgment: cognitivism 65.7%; non-cognitivism 17.0%; other 17.3%.
18. Moral motivation: internalism 34.9%; externalism 29.8%; other 35.3%.
19. Newcomb’s problem: two boxes 31.4%; one box 21.3%; other 47.4%.
20. Normative ethics: deontology 25.9%; consequentialism 23.6%; virtue ethics 18.2%; other 32.3%.
21. Perceptual experience: representationalism 31.5%; qualia theory 12.2%; disjunctivism 11.0%; sense-datum theory 3.1%; other 42.2%.
22. Personal identity: psychological view 33.6%; biological view 16.9%; further-fact view 12.2%; other 37.3%.
23. Politics: egalitarianism 34.8%; communitarianism 14.3%; libertarianism 9.9%; other 41.0%.
24. Proper names: Millian 34.5%; Fregean 28.7%; other 36.8%.
25. Science: scientiﬁc realism 75.1%; scientiﬁc anti-realism 11.6%; other 13.3%.
26. Teletransporter: survival 36.2%; death 31.1%; other 32.7%.
27. Time: B-theory 26.3%; A-theory 15.5%; other 58.2%.
28. Trolley problem: switch 68.2%; don’t switch 7.6%; other 24.2%.
29. Truth: correspondence 50.8%; deﬂationary 24.8%; epistemic 6.9%; other 17.5%.
30. Zombies: conceivable but not metaphysically possible 35.6%; metaphysically possible 23.3%; inconceivable 16.0%; other 25.1%.
59% compatibilists in free will, and only 12% seeing “no free will”? Really? These are the folks who have soothed themselves by replacing the old dualistic notion of free will with an updated one. That doesn’t make me happy. ‘
But the proportion of atheists, 72.8% as opposed to 14.6% theists, does. Philosophers have long known that their ranks are largely godless, but this is a striking confirmation. I conclude that people whose job involves thinking and being rational have largely decided to discard god (though I’m still a bit irked about the compatibilism).
The 27% of people who see mind as largely non-physical is a disturbing figure. That goes against everything that neurobiology has told us, and shows that not all philosophers are on board with science.
I am a consequentialist with regard to ethics (someone who thinks ethical judgements should be tendered based on their consequences) rather then a deontologist (ethical judgements should be made based on adherence to rules), so I’m not wildly happy with the slightly higher percentage of the latter than the former.
As for the trolley problem, I’m glad to see that 68.2% of philosophers would switch the out-of-control trolley onto the other track, killing one person there rather than the five who would have died without the switch, but I’m puzzled by the 7.6% who wouldn’t flip the switch? What’s the basis for that judgment? And what are the “other” solutions suggested by the remaining 24.2%. You either flip or don’t flip the switch, or you refuse to make a judgment (which, of course, is really a judgement since it results in five people dying). Perhaps they’re simply judging the morality of the action, and can’t reach a conclusion.
If you’re a philosopher, or know about these other issues, feel free to enlighten us and tender your own judgment.
Bourget, D. and D. J. Chalmers. 2013. What do philosophers believe? Philosophical Studies (in press).