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Experimental Philosophy

Ruwen Ogien’s book — Human Kindness and the Smell of Warm Croissants –lays out a number of approaches to experimental philosophy. Much of the text involves descriptions of classic moral problems. These put to normal people and are often challenging by their nature. The most famous probably being trolley problems. These investigate what people think about action and inaction in moral choice. Do you take action you know will kill one person but save more?

There Is A Lot Of Experimental Philosophy Out There

I wasn’t aware of just how many of these types of problems there are knocking around. It seems you can illustrate any number of major decisions in the world with one of these little vignettes. Many are very interesting by themselves. It is certainly fun to realize how creative people can be. Experimental Philosophy clearly has a lot going on and can help illustrate people’s moral intuitions. Obviously there is room to discuss how useful these experiments are. (Our moral intuitions aren’t necessarily how people ‘should’ think). Ogien offers a list of intuitions and suggests that experiments show that “… people do not have the intuitions that philosophers attribute to them” (Ogien, 2015, page 155).

Emotions And Knowledge

There is clearly a cross over between decision making and experimental philosophy and Ogien gives his views on emotions. Suggesting that:

“The emotions would not necessarily be causes of error. They could be sources of knowledge.”

Ogien, 2015, page 153

Character Is A Dubious Concept

A lot of what he suggests has been found is that people can change quite a lot with relatively minor things, e.g., how momentarily happy they are. Indeed, the sort of thing that might be caused by the smell of a warm croissant.

Croissants Can Make You A Better Person (Photo Pixabay @ Pexels)

This, for him (and me) casts doubt on a lot of discussions of character. (For more see here).

“…we must indeed acknowledge that the ‘scientific” or unscientific” attribution of a “character” or of a “personality” depends upon dubious inferences. It resembles the expression of prejudices more than a factual observation”.

Ogien, 2015, page 125

I’m going to see if I can use some of these vignettes in a study.

Read: Ruwen Ogien (20115) Human Kindness and the Smell of Warm Croissants: An Introduction to Ethics (Columbia University press)

Human Kindness and the Smell of Warm Croissants: An Introduction to Ethics: Ogien, Ruwen, Thom, Martin: 9780231169233: Books

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