I will be at the University of Utah presenting a paper at the Intermountain Philosophy Conference tomorrow entitled “Neurobiological Correlates of Philosophical Belief & Judgment: What This Means for Philosophy.” An abstract is below. The conference website is here.
It is becoming increasingly common to find journals publishing articles that demonstrate psychological correlates (e.g. Adelstein, Deyong, Arvan) and biological correlates (e.g. Harris, Hsu, Stern) of various self-reported beliefs and judgments. It is perhaps most common to find articles reporting the correlates of political beliefs and judgments (e.g. Amodio, Arvan, Hatemi, Kanai, Tost). This paper sets out to show that other types of belief are also worthy of study—for example, self-reported philosophical beliefs. The hypothesis is this: variations in peoples’ biology—perhaps their neurobiology in particular—could correlate with variations in one’s proclivity towards or aversion to particular philosophical beliefs and judgments. In the first section of the paper, I hypothesize about what we should expect to learn about our philosophical beliefs from our biology. Before reaching the concluding remarks I mention some philosophical and methodological concerns with the suggested research, some objections to the program, and finally I argue that studying philosophical beliefs is worthwhile. I am careful to note along the way that many of the conclusions reached by this program will be illuminating to philosophers, and none of it should be devastating to philosophy, but it could inspire methodological reform. At the very least, for example, the suggested research will likely report findings which should motivate philosophers to reappraise their appeals to the intuitiveness of propositions. After all, these judgments are usually contingent upon biological properties or priming more than any known truth-tracking properties.