5th Beijing Analytic Philosophy Conference

Experimental Philosophy

Justin Sytsma (keynote): Victoria University

Mei Jianhua (comments): Capital Normal University

“Are Religious Philosophers Less Analytic?”

Abstract: Some researchers in philosophy of religion have charged that the sub-discipline exhibits a number of features of poor health, prominently including that “partisanship is so entrenched that most philosophers of religion, instead of being alarmed by it, just take it for granted” (Draper and Nichols, 2013, 421). And researchers in experimental philosophy of religion have presented empirical work that supports this contention, arguing that it shows that confirmation bias plays a notable role in the acceptance of natural theological arguments among philosophers (De Cruz, 2014; Tobia, 2015; De Cruz and De Smedt, 2016). But while these studies indicate that there is a correlation between religious belief and judgments about natural theological arguments, they do not establish that causation runs from belief to judgment as has been claimed. In this paper I offer an alternative explanation, suggesting that thinking style is a plausible common cause. I note that previous research has shown a significant negative correlation between analytic thinking style and both religious belief and religious engagement in the general population (Shenhav, Rand, and Greene, 2012; Gervaise and Norenzayan, 2012; Pennycook et al., 2012, 2013; Jack et al., 2016). Further, other research has shown a significant positive correlation between analytic thinking style and training in philosophy that is independent of overall level of education (Livengood et al., 2010). Pulling these threads together, I hypothesize that there is an especially strong correlation between thinking style and religiosity among philosophers. This hypothesis is tested by looking at a sample of 524 people with an advanced degree in philosophy. The results support the hypothesis, showing a medium-large negative correlation between analytic thinking style and religious engagement that is roughly twice as strong as has been reported for the general population (r=-0.39 among men, r=-0.34 among women). And the correlation is even stronger if we restrict to Christian theists and non-theists (r=-0.61 among men, r=-0.62 among women).

April 28, 2018
Renmin University of China
500 Renwen Building

Conference Schedule (PDF download)

Conference Proceedings (PDF download)

Paper Presentations:

1. 论Dretske对直接/ 间接知觉之别的批评: Hua Haiming (Sun Yat-sen)
2. Mixed-Effects Modeling and Non-Reductive Physicalism: Fang Wei (Tongji)
3. Two Ways of Mental State Attributions: Wu Minyang (Renmin)
4. Subjective Beliefs in Outcome Probability and Moral Decision in Moral Dilemmas: Song Fei (Hong Kong)

Call for Papers

We invite graduate students and young faculty to submit papers in any area of analytic philosophy, but preference will be given to papers regarding experimental philosophy. Papers can be written in English or Chinese.

The deadline for submitting papers is: March 24, 2018. Papers should be suitable for 20-25 minute presentations (3,000-4,000 words) and made ready for blind review. Submissions should also include a cover letter with the following information: (i) author name, (ii) email, (iii) institution, (iv) paper topic, (v) word count, and (vi) an abstract (150 words).

** 1,000 RMB prize for best student paper and a 500 RMB prize for the runner-up.

** There are a limited number of travel/accommodations grants available for students in China outside Beijing, if interested please specify this in your email.

Submissions should be emailed to:


Be sure to attach your paper and cover letter as .doc(x) or .pdf files. Notices of acceptance will be sent by April 10, 2018.