Research seminar - 30 September - Nat Hansen

Online - 365 Teams Meeting
Wednesday 30th September 2020 (15:00-16:00)

Join us for our first research seminar of 2020/21. The speaker is Dr Nat Hansen, University of Reading.

Title: Socratic Questionnaires


In his 1958 criticism of the methods of ordinary language philosophy, Benson Mates introduced the idea of a “Socratic questionnaire”. Instead of the standard static approach to investigating meaning used by ordinary language philosophers, in which speakers speakers of a language are asked to use an expression in various imagined situations, or whether a use of an expression in an imagined situation is something “we would say”, Mates raised the possibility of a dynamic approach to probing meaning, by asking speakers prodding questions aimed at drawing the subject’s attention to borderline cases, counterexamples, and various awkward consequences of his first and relatively off-hand answers. (Mates, 1958, p. 169)

Responses to a Socratic questionnaire would reveal whether, when given time to reflect and consider relevant arguments, a speaker would stick with or revise their initial “off-hand” responses to questions. In this paper, we use a Socratic questionnaire to investigate how participants respond to philosophical scenarios when they have the chance to reflect and revise their initial judgments in a conversational context. We find that their responses to some philosophical scenarios differ from responses to those same scenarios presented in a traditional static survey. This finding complicates recent findings that various manipulations of reflectiveness have no effect on participants’ judgments about philosophical scenarios. The conversational experiment also reveals surprising details about how participants are understanding the scenarios they read in experimental philosophy studies, in particular whether they are replacing difficult questions with questions that are more easily answered, and to what extent participants are imagining the scenarios they read in ways that differ from what is explicitly stated by experimenters.

Please note that all talks will take place virtually, not on campus. All are welcome.

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Department of Philosophy

University of Nottingham
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