Stephen Stich at UMSL

Last Friday, Stephen Stich gave a talk at UMSL. I was especially happy because I’m a big fan of Stich’s work.

For those who may not know, Stich has been engaged for decades in a campaign against certain armchair methods in philosophy, such as certain forms of “conceptual analysis” based on “intuitions” about possible cases. His main strategy is to argue that such armchair methods presuppose empirical claims (e.g., about the nature of concepts), and that such empirical claims are false or at least unsupported. Besides drawing on evidence collected by psychologists and other scientists, Stich has gotten out of the armchair and collected empirical evidence himself. In recent years, Stich has been perhaps the most visible leader of the movement known as experimental philosophy.

In his talk, he presented some of his group’s latest findings (including the finding that Gettier intuitions are culturally relative!) and outlined his research program. Some related information may be found on the website of the Culture and the Mind Project.

Two tidbits:

Stich said their paper on the philosophical implications of their recent work is on his website, and could still be revised in light of comments. I don’t think he specified which paper he was referring to, but I would guess it is this.

As an example of where epistemology should go, Stich mentioned the recent book by Michael Bishop and J. D. Trout, Epistemology and the Psychology of Human Judgment (OUP, 2005).

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