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A New Perspective Concerning Experiments on Semantic Intuitions

Sytsma, Justin and Livengood, Jonathan (2010) A New Perspective Concerning Experiments on Semantic Intuitions. [Preprint]

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    In two fascinating articles, Machery, Mallon, Nichols, and Stich [2004, forthcoming] use experimental methods to raise a specter of doubt about reliance on intuitions in developing theories of reference which are then deployed in philosophical arguments outside the philosophy of language. Machery et al. ran a cross-cultural survey asking Western and East Asian participants about a famous case from the philosophical literature on reference (Kripke’s Gödel example). They interpret their results as indicating that there is significant variation in participants’ intuitions about semantic reference for that case. We argue that this interpretation is mistaken. We detail a type of ambiguity found in Machery et al.’s probe but not yet noted in the response literature. We argue that this epistemic ambiguity could have affected their results. We do not stop there, however: Rather than rest content with a possibility claim, we ran four studies to test the impact of this ambiguity on participants’ responses. We found that this accounts for much of the variation in Machery et al.’s original experiment. We conclude that in the light of our new data, their argument is no longer convincing.

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    Item Type: Preprint
    Additional Information: Author Posting. (c) Australasian Association of Philosophy, 2010. This is the author's (preprint) version of the work. It is posted here by permission of Australasian Association of Philosophy for personal use, not for redistribution. The definitive version was published in Australasian Journal of Philosophy, January 2010: doi:10.1080/00048401003639832
    Keywords: Reference; Semantic Intuitions; Experimental Philosophy; Machery, Mallon, Nichols, and Stich; Kripke; Gödel
    Subjects: General Issues > Thought Experiments
    Specific Sciences > Psychology/Psychiatry
    Specific Sciences > Cognitive Science
    General Issues > Experimentation
    Depositing User: Justin Sytsma
    Date Deposited: 22 Jan 2010
    Last Modified: 07 Oct 2010 11:19
    Item ID: 5130

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