All in the family: The history and philosophy of Experimental Philosophy
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Experimental philosophy (or “x-phi”) is a way of doing philosophy. It is “traditional” philosophy, but with a little something extra: In addition to the expected philosophical arguments and engagement, x-phi involves the use of empirical methods to test the empirical claims that arise. This extra bit strikes some as a new, perhaps radical, addition to philosophical practice. We don’t think so. As this chapter will show, empirical claims have been common across the history of Western philosophy, as have appeals to empirical observation in attempting to support or subvert these claims. While conceptions of philosophy have changed over time, across these changes we find philosophers employing empirical methods in pursuing their philosophical questions. Our primary aim in this chapter is to illustrate this fact. We begin by discussing the relevance of history to experimental philosophy (Section 2), then offer a necessarily condensed and highly selective history of empirical work in Western philosophy, ranging from the ancients (Section 3), to the early moderns (Section 4), to the late moderns (Section 5), and on to the present (Section 6).