Skip to main content

A survey of contemporary philosophers

Image result for survey form

Nine hundred and thirty one contemporary philosophers took part in a recent survey. The word "philosopher" in this context means a member of a university department of philosophy. The 99 departments involved were generally Anglophonic and analytic in history/orientation. 
So ... given some commonality in education, profession, language, historic lineage ... has there come to be a consensus on the Big Questions? 
Not really. But the particulars of that answer are fascinating.

I’ll just select the ten questions on their survey that have given my mind the most solicitude over the years, and tell you what the survey results say, and only then answer those for myself:

1.      Abstract objects: Platonism or nominalism?

Accept or lean toward Platonism                    366 (39.3%)

Accept or lean toward nominalism                 351 (37.7%)

Other                                                               214 (23.0%)

2.      Analytic-synthetic distinction: yes or no?

Accept or lean toward yes                              604 (64.9%)

Accept or lean toward no                               252 (27.1%)

Other                                                               75 (8.1%)

3.      External world: Idealism, skepticism, or non-skeptical realism?

Accept or lean toward non-skeptical realism 750 (81.6%)

Other                                                               86 (9.2%)

Accept or lean toward skepticism                   45 (4.8%)

Accept or lean toward idealism                      40 (4.3%)

4.      Free will …

Accept or lean toward compatibilism             550 (59.1%)

Other                                                               139 (14.9%)

Accept or lean toward libertarianism              128 (13.7%)

Accept or lean toward no free will                 114 (12.2%)

5.      God: theism or atheism

Accept or lean toward atheism                       678 (72.8%)

Accept or lean toward theism                         136 (14.6%)

Other                                                               117 (12.6%)

6.      Moral judgement: cognitivism or non-cognitivism?

Accept or lean toward cognitivism                 612 (65.7%)

Other                                                              161 (17.3%)

Accept or lean toward non-cognitivism          158 (17%)


7.      Normative ethics: deontology, consequentialism, or virtue ethics?

Other                                                               301 (32.3%)

Accept or lean toward deontology                 241 (25.9%)

Accept or lean toward consequentialism        220 (23.6%)

Accept or lean toward virtue ethics                169 (18.2%)

8.      Personal identity: Biological view, psychological view, or further-fact view?

Other                                                               347 (37.3%)

Accept or lean toward psychological view     313 (33.6%)

Accept or lean toward biological view           157 (16.9%)

Accept or lean toward further-fact view        114 (12.2%)

9.      Politics: communitarianism, egalitarianism, or libertarianism?

Other                                                               382 (41%)

Accept or lean toward egalitarianism             324 (34.8%)

Accept or lean toward communitarianism      133 (14.3%)

Accept or lean toward libertarianism              92 (9.9%)

10.  Time: A-theory or B-theory

Translation: the A-theory holds that time is a reality, the B-theory that it is an illusion.                                            

Other                                                               542 (58.2%)

Accept or lean toward B-theory                     245 (26.3%)   

Accept or lean toward A-theory                     144 (15.5%)
Had I been asked, despite the fact that I am not qualified by the surveys standards, I would have answered those ten as follows:
Yes on nominalism. No on the analytic/synthetic distinction. Yes on non-skeptical realism and incompatibilist free will (i.e. 'libertarianism' in the first sense in which it is used in this survey). "Other" on theism and "yes" to cognitivism in moral judgment. Yes to consequentialism and to a psychological view of identity (stream-of-consciousness and all that).  Yes to libertarianism in the second sense in which it is used here, and to the reality of time, aka the A theory.
On questions 3 and 6 I'm comfortably within a consensus view, although the more common situation, where there is something like a consensus, is that I'm against it, as with both free will and God.


Popular posts from this blog

A Story About Coleridge

This is a quote from a memoir by Dorothy Wordsworth, reflecting on a trip she took with two famous poets, her brother, William Wordsworth, and their similarly gifted companion, Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

We sat upon a bench, placed for the sake of one of these views, whence we looked down upon the waterfall, and over the open country ... A lady and gentleman, more expeditious tourists than ourselves, came to the spot; they left us at the seat, and we found them again at another station above the Falls. Coleridge, who is always good-natured enough to enter into conversation with anybody whom he meets in his way, began to talk with the gentleman, who observed that it was a majestic waterfall. Coleridge was delighted with the accuracy of the epithet, particularly as he had been settling in his own mind the precise meaning of the words grand, majestic, sublime, etc., and had discussed the subject with William at some length the day before. “Yes, sir,” says Coleridge, “it is a majestic wate…

Cancer Breakthrough

Hopeful news in recent days about an old and dear desideratum: a cure for cancer. Or at least for a cancer, and a nasty one at that.

The news comes about because investors in GlaxoSmithKline are greedy for profits, and has already inspired a bit of deregulation to boot. 

The FDA has paved the road for a speedy review of a new BCMA drug for multiple myeloma, essentially cancer of the bone marrow. This means that the US govt has removed some of the hurdles that would otherwise (by decision of the same govt) face a company trying to proceed with these trials expeditiously. 

This has been done because the Phase I clinical trial results have been very promising. The report I've seen indicates that details of these results will be shared with the world on Dec. 11 at the annual meeting of the American Society of Hematology. 

The European Medicines Agency has also given priority treatment to the drug in question. 

GSK's website identifies the drug at issue as "GSK2857916," althou…

Hume's Cutlery

David Hume is renowned for two pieces of cutlery, the guillotine and the fork.

Hume's guillotine is the sharp cut he makes between "is" statements and "ought" statements, to make the point that the former never ground the latter.

His "fork" is the division between what later came to be called "analytic" and "synthetic" statements, with the ominous observation that any books containing statements that cannot be assigned to one or the other prong should be burnt.

Actually, I should acknowledge that there is some dispute as to how well or poorly the dichotomy Hume outlines really maps onto the analytic/synthetic dichotomy. Some writers maintain that Hume meant something quite different and has been hijacked. Personally, I've never seen the alleged difference however hard they've worked to point it out to me.

The guillotine makes for a more dramatic graphic than a mere fork, hence the bit of clip art above.

I'm curious whe…