An Empirical Framework with Relevance to Problems of Consciousness, Free will and Ethics
Jared P. Friedman & Anthony I. Jack
Review of Philosophy and Psychology
There has been considerable debate in the literature as to whether work in experimental philosophy (X-Phi) actually makes any significant contribution to philosophy. One stated view is that many X-Phi projects, notwithstanding their focus on topics relevant to philosophy, contribute little to philosophical thought. Instead, it has been claimed the contribution they make appears to be to cognitive science. In contrast to this view, here we argue that at least one approach to X-Phi makes a contribution which parallels, and also extends, historically salient forms of philosophical analysis, especially contributions from Immanuel Kant, William James, Peter F. Strawson and Thomas Nagel. The framework elaborated here synthesizes philosophical theory with empirical evidence from psychology and neuroscience and applies it to three perennial philosophical problems. According to this account, the origin of these three problems can be illuminated by viewing them as arising from a tension between two distinct types of cognition, each of which is associated with anatomically independent and functionally inhibitory neural networks. If the parallel we draw, between an empirical project and historically highly influential examples of philosophical analysis, is viewed as convincing, it follows that work in the cognitive sciences can contribute directly to philosophy. Further, this conclusion holds whether the empirical details of the account are correct or not.
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