Experimental Philosophy

Justin Sytsma (Victoria University)

April 23-27, 2018

600 Renwen Building
Renmin University of China
Time: 2-5 pm

Lecture 1: The Theory of Experimental Philosophy (April 23)

Experimental philosophy involves the collection of empirical data to shed light on philosophical issues. Although experimental philosophy (or x-phi as it is often known) is a recent development within analytic philosophy, it has quickly made its presence felt. Love it or hate it, philosophers have been talking about experimental philosophy. More surprisingly, experimental philosophy has also garnered attention from outside of academic philosophy, being noted in the New York Times, Slate, the Chronicle of Higher
Education, the Utne Reader, on Talk of the Nation, and many, many more. This talk will provide an introduction to the theory of experimental philosophy. We’ll begin by exploring just what experimental philosophy amounts to, discussing different conceptions of experimental philosophy and different ways of approaching the subdiscipline. We’ll then look at some selected examples of work in experimental philosophy. Finally, we’ll address some criticisms of the practice and responses to these objections.

Lecture 2: Attributions of Consciousness (April 25)

Many philosophers and brain scientists hold that explaining consciousness is one of the major outstanding problems facing modern science today. One type of consciousness in particular—phenomenal consciousness—is thought to be especially problematic. The reasons given for believing that this phenomenon exists in the first place, however, often hinge on the claim that its existence is simply obvious in ordinary perceptual experience. Such claims motivate the study of people’s intuitions about consciousness. In recent years, a number of researchers in experimental philosophy of mind have begun to shed light on this area, investigating how people understand and attribute those mental states that have been thought to be phenomenally conscious. In this talk, we’ll discuss the philosophical concept of phenomenal consciousness and detail the work that has been done on the question of whether lay people have this concept.

Lecture 3: Experimental Philosophy of Pain (April 27)

The standard view of pains among philosophers today holds that their existence consists in being experienced, such that there can be no unfelt pains or pain hallucinations. The typical line of support offered for this view is that it corresponds with the ordinary or commonsense conception of pain. Despite this, a growing body of evidence from experimental philosophers indicates that the ordinary understanding of pain stands in contrast to the standard view among philosophers. In this talk, we’ll survey this literature and add to it, detailing the results of seven new studies on the ordinary understanding of pain using both corpus analysis and questionnaire methods.

This course is free but we require all participants to register ahead of time. If you would like to register please email the following address:


In your email be sure to include your: (i) full name, (ii) program of study (B.A., M.A., Ph.D.), and (iii) institution.

We have funds to support travel and accommodation fees for select students in China who reside outside of Beijing. Please specify if you would like to be considered for a travel / accommodation grant and include an explanation of how this short-course is related to and will benefit your current research along with your most recent CV.