What Do Philosophers Believe?
Bourget (David) & Chalmers (David)
Source: PhilPapers Surveys, November 30, 2013
Paper - Abstract

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Authors’ Abstract

  1. What are the philosophical views of contemporary professional philosophers? We surveyed many professional philosophers in order to help determine their views on thirty central philosophical issues. This article documents the results.
  2. It also reveals correlations among philosophical views and between these views and factors such as age, gender, and nationality. A factor analysis suggests that an individual’s views on these issues factor into a few underlying components that predict much of the variation in those views.
  3. The results of a metasurvey also suggest that many of the results of the survey are surprising: philosophers as a whole have quite inaccurate beliefs about the distribution of philosophical views in the profession.

Notes
  1. Admin
    • The whole paper is here: Link.
    • The control page for the survey is here: Link.
    • The summary results are here: Link, but you can filter in various ways – eg. to compare graduate students with faculty.
    • Many philosophers1 made public responses, sometimes with comments: Link.
  2. Methodological issues:
    • The target faculty were those in the 89 elite philosophy departments in the English-speaking world, with a few “outsiders”.
    • The response rate was around 50%, whch I’d have thought was amazingly good, with the rate being slightly better for men than women.
    • Faculty appears to be around 80% male.
    • The introduction makes the useful point that knowing what the consensus is on any philosophical position is relevant to how arguments are conducted in philosophical papers. So, more space should be given to supporting controversial or minor positions, while majority views can often be taken as read. But ignorance of, or confusion about, what the majority views actually are can distort the reasoning-focus in a paper. Consequently, all this sociological stuff, while not itself philosophy, can be useful to philosophy (as well as providing material for the history of the future).
    • However, the paper notes that there’s no real consensus on any substantive philosophical issue, and because there’s less convergence over time in philosophy than in science, the evidence of what experts believe is less of an indicator of where the truth lies than in science.
    • It is pointed out that there is a significant mismatch between what philosophers think is the popularity of the various philosophical positions, and what is actually the case. Also, that philosophers tend to underestimate the popularity of their own views2.
  3. The Questions:
    • There are 30 questions, listed with summary responses below. All are interesting.
    • However, of these, I’ve chosen 8 of particular interest. More detail on the response-breakdown for these questions appears at the end of this note.
    • The reason for my choices, and some comments appears immediately below.
    • I’ve extracted the high-level responses of my chosen 22 philosophers for these 8 questions appears in the table below.
  4. Free Will:
    • It was interesting to see that around 60% of philosophers at least incline to the view that free will and determinism are compatible; which is just as well, given that (QM-aside) the world is deterministic, and – for practical purposes – we have free will.
    • This question is important, given a general commitment to naturalism, physicalism and (for practical purposes) atheism.
    • See Parfit’s comment – while ostensibly denying that we have free will, he thinks we have enough for “ought → can” to go through. Maybe this is just the Hobbesian freedom of spiders?
    • My view: Compatibilism.
  5. God:
    • I don’t know whether to be comforted or not by the thought that around ¾ of analytic philosphers at least incline towards atheism.
    • A number of distinguished philosphers are theists, but few seem to have responded to this survey.
    • Even so, around 10% claim to be decided theists – which is quite a lot.
    • Amongst my selected philosophers, only one – Lynne Rudder Baker is a firm theist, and only one other – E.J. Lowe is leaning in that direction. Thus roughly confirms the 10% mark.
    • I think that the sine qua non of the philosophical approach – namely, of following an argument where it leads – is corrosive of faith, and that using philosophy to think up clever arguments in support of what you believe anyway (as William Lane Craig), or as the medieval "handmaiden of theology", is a travesty of analytic philosophy.
    • My view: Agnosticism (probably).
  6. Metaphilosophy:
    • It seems that around ½ of analytic philosophers are naturalists, about ¼ aren’t, and the remaining quarter are undecided.
    • I don’t know what the non-naturalists who aren’t theists actually believe.
    • Methodological naturalism is core to the natural sciences, so you’d expect those philosophers who think of philosophy as the handmaiden of the sciences to adopt this position.
    • My view: Naturalism.
  7. Mind:
    • While more than half of analytical philosophers at least incline towards physicalism in the philosophy of mind, only about ⅓ are fully decided, with about ¼ at least inclined towards non-physicalism.
    • This has spin-offs for personal identity, and may explain why so few philosophers accept the biological view.
    • My view: Physicalism.
  8. Personal Identity:
    • > ⅓ don’t know, and another ⅓ accept the Psychological View. Less than 17% are even inclined towards the Biological3 View, and about twice that number are enticed by the “Further Fact” view.
    • What is the FF view? Baker self-categorises that way.
    • In the detailed table of respondents, only two inclined to the biological view. One, as might be expected, is the biologist Michael Ruse. The other is my former supervisor Jennifer Hornsby.
    • My view: Biological.
  9. Teletransporter:
    • Surprisingly, philosophers seem evenly divided between survival, death and indecision.
    • Only supporters of the Psychological View ought to be enticed in the direction of survival.
    • Parfit’s response is categarised as “reject both”, but he explicitly says he wouldn’t survive. However – as we might expect – he claims that it’s as good as survival.
    • My view: Death.
  10. Trolley Problem:
    • This is a little tangential to my interests, but a fascinating question.
    • I was pleased to see such a preponderance of support for the essentially consequentialist response of “switching”, with nearly 70% inclined in this direction, and < 3% clearly refusing to switch.
    • But, one philosopher (Sally Haslanger) suggested that the problem is mis-stated. The paradox is allegedly to expain why almost no-one refuses to switch, but almost everyone refuses to throw the fat man off the bridge to stop the train and achieve the same result.
    • See Parfit’s comment.
    • As it happens, an email popped up on Philos_List while I was writing this Note: see Link for a lead in to the topic4.
    • My view: Switch.
  11. Zombies:
    • ¼ of the respondents sit on the fence, and another ¼ think zombies are possible. The rest think zombies are metaphysically impossible, but ⅔ of these think that zombies are at least conceivable.
    • Personally, I don’t see how something that’s metaphysically impossible can be conceivable. At first thought, it might seem conceivable, but when you think it through and find it to be metaphysically impossible presumably the conceivability turns out to be ilusory?
    • My view: Inconceivable. For a physicalist, anyway.

Table of Views: Key5

There’s a note to the effect that the philosophers are at liberty to update their views at any time, so the currently-recorded views may not be those contributed to the survey in 2009.

PhilosopherLinkFree WillGodMetaphilosophyMindPersonal IdentityTeletransporterTrolley ProblemZombies
Lynne Rudder BakerLinkCompatibilismTheismLT Non-naturalismAnother alternativeFurther-fact viewSurvivalSwitchC but not MP
David ChalmersLinkLT CompatibilismLT atheismQuestion unclearNon-physicalismPVSurvivalSwitchM Possible
John DupreLinkReject determinismAtheismNaturalismAnother alternativeIntermediate viewQuestion unclearLT SwitchInconceivable
Owen FlanaganLinkCompatibilismAtheismLT naturalismPhysicalismPVDeathSwitchInconceivable
Anthony GraylingLinkLT compatibilismAtheismNaturalism PhysicalismMore than oneAnother alternative LT switchC but not MP
Sally HaslangerLinkCompatibilismAtheism Naturalism LT physicalismBiological view Death Switch LT C but not MP
Terence HorganLink Compatibilism Atheism Agnostic LT physicalism LT PV Death Other LT C but not MP
Jennifer HornsbyLinkLibertarianism Atheism Question unclear Reject both Biological view Death Switch Inconceivable
Rosalind HursthouseLinkReject all Atheism No fact Question unclear More than one Survival SwitchOther
Joseph LevineLinkLT compatibilism Atheism Naturalism Physicalism PV Death LT don't switchC but not MP
E.J. LoweLink Libertarianism LT theismNon-naturalism Non-physicalism Further-fact view Death Switch LT C but not MP
Ned MarkosianLink Compatibilism Atheism LT naturalism LT physicalism LT PV Death Don't switch C but not MP
Graham OppyLink Compatibilism Atheism Naturalism Physicalism Skip Skip Switch Inconceivable
David PapineauLink Compatibilism Atheism Naturalism Physicalism LT PV Survival Switch C but not MP
Derek ParfitLink No free will6 Atheism Non-naturalism LT non-physicalism Other alternative7 Reject both8 Switch9 M possible
John PerryLink Compatibilism Atheism Naturalism Physicalism LT PV LT survival LT switch LT Inconceivable
Amelie RortyLink Compatibilism Atheism LT naturalism Question unclear More than one No fact Don't switch Reject all
Michael RuseLink Compatibilism Atheism Naturalism Physicalism Biological view LT Death SwitchLT MP
Nathan SalmonLinkLT no free will Atheism Unfamiliar Non-physicalism Further-fact view Death Switch M possible
Michael TyeLink Compatibilism Atheism Naturalism Physicalism LT PV Death Agnostic C but not MP
Peter UngerLink LT libertarianism LT atheism Question unclear LT non-physicalism LT further-fact LT death Switch Question unclear
Stephen YabloLinkLT compatibilism Atheism LT non-naturalism Non-physicalism LT PV Survival Switch LT C but not MP

Sections
  1. Introduction
  2. Setup and methodology
    • 2.1 Survey population
    • 2.2 Main questions and survey interface
    • 2.3 Orientation and background questions
    • 2.4 Metasurvey questions and interface
  3. Main Survey Results
    • 3.1 Demographics of target faculty
    • 3.2 Philosophical orientation
    • 3.3 Main answers
    • 3.4 Correlations
    • 3.5 Correlations between philosophical views
    • 3.6 Gender correlations
    • 3.7 Age correlations
    • 3.8 Geographical correlations
    • 3.9 Specialization correlations
    • 3.10 Identification effects
    • 3.11 Relative importance of demographic factors
    • 3.12 Factor analysis
  4. Metasurvey results
    • 4.1 Metasurvey analysis
  5. Summary of conclusions
  6. Appendix 1: Detailed survey results
  7. Appendix 2: Details of principal component analysis and factor analysis

Figures
  1. Example question screen
  2. Metasurvey interface
  3. Years of birth and target faculty
  4. Distribution of error levels across questions and target faculty
  5. Parallel Analysis Scree Plots

Tables
  1. Regions: nationality, PhD, affiliation
  2. Number of target faculty respondents per declared area of specialization
  3. The twenty non-living philosophers with whom the most target faculty respondents identified.
  4. Conversion scheme for "other" answers
  5. Distribution of answers for Metaphilosophy: naturalism and Moral judgments: cognitivism
  6. 50 highest correlations between philosophical views
  7. Highest correlations between gender:female and main answers
  8. Highest correlations between year of birth and main answers
  9. Highest correlations between main answers and geographic affiliations
  10. Highest correlations between views and specializations
  11. Greatest differences between specialists and non-specialists
  12. Highest correlations between views and identifications
  13. Correlations between views and identification with the analytic tradition
  14. Highest average absolute correlations between background factors and main answers
  15. Components extracted using principal component analysis with varimax rotation
  16. Highest correlations between extracted components and (a) background, (b) philosophical identification, and © specialization.
  17. Normalized community-level errors for metasurvey answers

The 30 Questions & Responses10
  1. A priori knowledge:
    • yes 71.1%
    • no 18.4%
    • other 10.5%.
  2. Abstract11 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%
    • libertarianism12 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%.


Fine Detail13
  1. Free will: compatibilism, libertarianism, or no free will?
    1. Compatibilism 59.1±1.6%
      • Accept (34.8%),
      • Lean toward (24.3%)
    2. Other 14.9±0.8%
      • Agnostic/undecided (4.1%),
      • The question is too unclear to answer (2.8%)
    3. Libertarianism 13.7±0.8%
      • Accept (7.7%),
      • Lean toward (6.0%)
    4. No free will 12.2±0.7%
      • Lean toward (6.6%),
      • Accept (5.7%)
  1. God: theism or atheism?
    1. Atheism 72.8±1.7%
      • Accept (61.9%),
      • Lean toward (11.0%)
    2. Theism 14.6±0.8%
      • Accept (10.6%),
      • Lean toward (4.0%)
    3. Other 12.6±0.7%
      • Agnostic/undecided (5.5%).
  1. Metaphilosophy: naturalism or non-naturalism?
    1. Naturalism 49.8±1.4%
      • Accept (30.5%),
      • Lean toward (19.3%)
    2. Non-naturalism 25.9±1.1%
      • Accept (14.8%),
      • Lean toward (11.1%)
    3. Other 24.3±1.0%
      • The question is too unclear to answer (9.7%),
      • Insufficiently familiar with the issue (6.8%),
      • Agnostic/undecided (2.7%)
  1. Mind: physicalism or non-physicalism?
    1. Physicalism 56.5±1.5%
      • Accept (34.6%),
      • Lean toward (21.9%)
    2. Non-physicalism 27.1±1.1%
      • Accept (14.2%),
      • Lean toward (12.9%)
    3. Other 16.4±0.8%
      • The question is too unclear to answer (6.3%),
      • Agnostic/undecided (2.5%),
      • Accept an intermediate view (2.4%)
  1. Personal identity: biological view, psychological view, or further-fact view?
    1. Other 37.3±1.3%
      • Agnostic/undecided (8.5%),
      • Insufficiently familiar with the issue (6.2%),
      • There is no fact of the matter (4.2%),
      • Accept more than one (4.0%),
      • Accept another alternative (3.9%),
      • The question is too unclear to answer (2.8%),
      • Accept an intermediate view (2.7%),
      • Reject all (2.6%)
    2. Psychological view 33.6±1.2%
      • Lean toward (22.7%),
      • Accept (11.0%)
    3. Biological view 16.9±0.9%
      • Lean toward (11.3%),
      • Accept (5.6%)
    4. Further-fact view 12.2±0.7%
      • Lean toward (7.8%),
      • Accept (4.4%)
  1. Teletransporter: survival or death?
    1. Survival 36.2±1.2%
      • Lean toward (22.7%),
      • Accept (13.5%)
    2. Other 32.7±1.2%
      • Insufficiently familiar with the issue (9.2%),
      • Agnostic/undecided (8.6%),
      • There is no fact of the matter (6.0%),
      • The question is too unclear to answer (3.7%),
      • Skip (2.0%)
    3. Death 31.1±1.2%
      • Accept (17.4%),
      • Lean toward (13.7%)
  1. Trolley problem: switch or don’t switch?
    1. Switch 68.2±1.7%
      • Accept (45.1%),
      • Lean toward (23.1%)
    2. Other 24.2±1.0%
      • Agnostic/undecided (6.4%),
      • Insufficiently familiar with the issue (4.5%),
      • There is no fact of the matter (3.7%),
      • The question is too unclear to answer (2.9%)
    3. Don’t switch 7.6±0.6%
      • Lean toward (4.8%),
      • Accept (2.8%)
  1. Zombies: inconceivable, conceivable but not metaphysically possible, or metaphysically possible?
    1. Conceivable but not metaphysically possible 35.6±1.2%
      • Lean toward (20.5%),
      • Accept (15.0%)
    2. Other 25.1±1.0%
      • Insufficiently familiar with the issue (9.0%),
      • Agnostic/undecided (6.6%),
      • The question is too unclear to answer (4.3%)
    3. Metaphysically possible 23.3±1.0%
      • Accept (12.4%),
      • Lean toward (11.0%)
    4. Inconceivable 16.0±0.8%
      • Lean toward (8.8%),
      • Accept (7.2%)



In-Page Footnotes

Footnote 1: Itemised Philosphers: Footnote 2: Own Views: Footnote 3: Biological View: Footnote 4: Footnote 5: Key: Footnote 6: Footnote 7: Footnote 8: Footnote 9: Footnote 10: Footnote 11: Abstract Objects:-Footnote 12: Footnote 13: Some of the breakdowns don’t add up – in that some %age of the responses seem to have leached out of the survey. This isn’t the case at the higher level. I presume it’s just sloppiness.


Text Colour Conventions (see disclaimer)

  1. Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2018
  2. Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)



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