My first thought is simply 'time frame', but then Anthropology isn't exactly bound to the past...

A second look makes me wonder if "experimental philosophy" is not simply some area of overlap between Psychology, Sociology and of course Anthropology. An aside question that came up in this regard is: Can the same research material, e.g. questionnaires, be used by different disciplines?

Now I don't want to come across as critical of the existence of "experimental philosophy", after all it may turn out future generations will much benefit from the Democratic Depository of Philosophical Intuitions.

But it seem there is a demarcation problem here I'm unable to find any sources to resolve?

See also this apology: https://leiterreports.typepad.com/blog/2006/03/experimental_ph.html

  • 2
    Anthropologists study overt culture and behavior rather than implicit intuitions?
    – Conifold
    Commented Feb 1, 2019 at 10:02
  • By the way, I am firmly against these experimentalists, but everything I am against happens anyway. If we start listening to rocks and testing rocks we move from anthropology to geology. I think Hegel said the very stones will rise up and contribute to German Kultur.
    – Gordon
    Commented Feb 1, 2019 at 16:24
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    "..everything I am against happens anyway" sounds like exactly the sort of thing they would be interested in. High Energy Philosophy?
    – christo183
    Commented Feb 1, 2019 at 17:23
  • i had not heard of experimental philosophy
    – user38026
    Commented May 6, 2019 at 16:17
  • It has to include a critical theory. Sociology had one: sociology of knowledge. But for the most part the social sciences are just positivism now. And empirical philosophy would just be positivism. It is very interesting to go back to Francis Bacon, one of the fathers of empiricism. Even he warned us about our presuppositions, our "hang-ups" essentially. As Freud did, particularly the super-Ego.
    – Gordon
    Commented May 6, 2019 at 19:07

2 Answers 2


Experimental philosophy studies people's intuitions about philosophical questions. It has nothing to do with anthropology. In many philosophical debates philosophers appeal to intuition, and especially intuitions about certain thought experiments. For instance, there is the famous Gettier problem, according to which knowledge isn't justified true belief. Here's an example of such a Gettier case: X sees a clock that reads 3 o'clock, and on that basis X believes it's 3 o'clock. It is indeed 3 o'clock but, the clock is in fact defective -- it just stopped at 3 exactly 24 hours earlier. Intuitively, X doesn't know that it's 3 o'clock, even though X has a justified true belief that it's 3 o'clock.

The appeal to intuition here is important: it seems to us that there is no knowledge in the Gettier case above, but this judgment in not based on any theory, it's just a matter of intuition. But whose intuition is it? Is it supposed to be everyone's intuition? What if some people have different intuitions?

Here is where experimental philosophy comes in. There have been studies specifically on Gettier cases such as the one above. Initially, it was found that people's intuitions about Gettier cases differ across cultures (Weinberg et al. 2001): in some (eastern) cultures people thought there was knowledge in Gettier cases, and in others (western) people thought the opposite. If these results are reliable, then perhaps Gettier cases don't provide counterexamples to the justified-true-belief theory of knowledge after all. In the SEP entry on experimental philosophy it is put this way:

This apparent diversity in intuitions about philosophical matters has been used to challenge the use of intuitions in philosophy to tell us about the nature of things like knowledge and reference. If intuitions about knowledge turn out to exhibit diversity between populations, then this looks to put pressure on a traditional philosophical project.

However, more recent studies did not find variance across cultures (e.g. Machery et al. 2015), and this seems to confirm Gettier counterexamples.

All this is to illustrate that experimental philosophy takes an experimental approach to traditional philosophical questions, and specifically to those intuitions that philosophers appeal to in their arguments and thought experiments.

Weinberg, Jonathan M., Shaun Nichols, & Stephen Stich, 2001, “Normativity and Epistemic Intuitions”, Philosophical Topics, 29(1/2): 429–460

Machery, Edouard, Stephen Stich, David Rose, Amita Chatterjee, Kaori Karasawa, Noel Struchiner, Smita Sirker, Naoki Usui, & Takaaki Hashimoto, 2015, “Gettier Across Cultures”, Noûs, 51(3): 645–664. doi:10.1111/nous.12110

  • why do you answer the question in your first two sentences then never show that you're right?
    – user38026
    Commented May 6, 2019 at 21:34
  • i just mean that you (emphatically) claim it's not anthropology, then show that it has bearing on philosophical problems, nothing else. that doesn't even really itself show it's philosophy, let alone not anthropology. lots of disciplines can be drawn upon by philosophers
    – user38026
    Commented May 6, 2019 at 22:17
  • Why do people behave as they do? And, how can we distinguish "people's intuitions" from peoples behavior? If research on these questions gave different answers in the experimental philosophy versus the anthropological/social science domain, then I could get behind "the study of intuition" as a demarcation. - Also, it may well be that the studies you cite from 2001 and 2015 are both equally accurate but intuitions changed, maybe under the influence of communication technology. There is a (intrinsic) problem with reputability noted even in the above mentioned apology.
    – christo183
    Commented May 7, 2019 at 7:20
  • @christo183 Experimental philosophy is not concerned with why people have the intuitions they do. It's concerned with what those intuitions are, whether they depend on people's background, or on specific aspects of the thought experiment, etc.
    – E...
    Commented May 7, 2019 at 7:33
  • 1
    How is "why people have the intuitions they do" not the same as "whether they depend on people's background"? - Understand that I'm not coming at this as a critic of, but rather I'm trying to find a "Philosophy-of-experimental philosophy"
    – christo183
    Commented May 7, 2019 at 7:42

There seems to be no clear demarcation, from either side. e.g.

The discipline of anthropology is one in an identity crisis. It is unclear what, if anything, is unique to anthropology regarding its questions of concern or its methodology. In this paper, I propose a resolution to this crisis. I argue that (at least some) anthropology, conducted through ethnography, is correctly understood as what is today called 'experimental philosophy'. - Farbod Akhlaghi-Ghaffarokh


More recently, philosophers in the early to mid-twentieth century made use of empirical research in psychology and anthropology in order to illuminate philosophical problems such as the nature of emotion and cognition, the existence and extent of moral diversity, and even the nature of truth. Some of this research anticipates, albeit in relatively rudimentary form, methods being deployed by experimental philosophers today - Alexandra Plakias

Though it seems that not all anthropologists are studying philosophy, and not all philosophers who may draw on experimental philosophy will be familiar with anthropological research in general.

They function as different disciplines, despite the overlap. This isn't especially unusual, e.g. in medicine

As Catherine Dekeuwer (2015) notes, given that there probably is genetic variation in susceptibility to virtually all diseases, there is no clear demarcation between genetic diseases and diseases for which there are genetic risk factors; hence she argues that our tendency to focus on genetic determinants of disease may reinforce folk notions of the geneticization of both people and of human behavior.

But we still talk about 'genetic disorders'.

  • why was this downvoted? bizarre
    – user38026
    Commented May 7, 2019 at 2:03
  • 4
    Please don't link random words in quotes to their sources - it makes it look like the links were part of what you were quoting. Please give a citation with author/title, and link those to the source pages. Commented May 7, 2019 at 2:19
  • there is no format for citing works on stackexchange @curiousdannii
    – user38026
    Commented May 7, 2019 at 6:28
  • Did not know Anthropology was having problems of its own... I guess time will tell.
    – christo183
    Commented May 7, 2019 at 7:30
  • 1
    @another_name Don't hyperlink the first words - keep the link entirely separate from the sentence(s) you're quoting. Ideally by using the author's name! Commented May 7, 2019 at 12:00

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