Volume 95, Issue 2, April 2012
Amie L. Thomasson
Experimental Philosophy and the Methods of Ontology
Those working in experimental philosophy have raised a number of arguments against the use of conceptual analysis in philosophical inquiries. But they have typically focused on a model that pursues conceptual analysis by taking intuitions as a kind of (defeasible) evidence for philosophical hypotheses. Little attention has been given to the constitutivist alternative, which sees metaphysical modal facts as reflections of constitutive semantic rules. I begin with a brief overview
of the constitutivist approach and argue that we can defend a role for conceptual analysis, so understood, in ontological disputes against both the general skepticism about the relevance of intuitions, and against the specific worries raised by experimental results. Finally, I argue that even if the constitutivist view is adopted, experimental philosophy may still have quite a useful role to play, though purely empirical inquiries cannot in principle do the ontological work alone.