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Experimental Philosophy: The Psychology of Philosophy - PHI00143H

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  • Department: Philosophy
  • Module co-ordinator: Prof. Keith Allen
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: H
  • Academic year of delivery: 2024-25
    • See module specification for other years: 2023-24

Module summary

Should we pull the lever to divert the train, and kill one person to save five? Are we responsible for the unintended consequences of our actions? Are free will and determinism compatible? Are zombies conceivable? Do men and women, or members of different cultures, differ in their responses to philosophical thought experiments?

Experimental philosophy (x-phi) is a recent interdisciplinary research programme that uses methods from psychology and the social sciences to address core philosophical problems. Co-taught by Keith Allen (Philosophy) and Philip Quinlan (Psychology), this module will introduce you to a range of philosophical questions that x-phi has addressed, consider the reaction of ‘mainstream’ philosophers, and teach you practical skills in survey design and analysis.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 2 2024-25

Module aims

The module aims to

  • Introduce students to experimental philosophy (x-phi)

  • Consider responses to x-phi from traditional ‘mainstream’ philosophy

  • Teach students basic skills in experimental design and analysis

  • Help students to develop the ability to write clearly and effectively for an interdisciplinary audience

Module learning outcomes

By the end of this module, students should be able to:

  • Explain what is distinctive of the x-phi approach to philosophy.

  • Evaluate the degree of success that the x-phi approach has had in addressing a range of traditional philosophical problems.

  • Write in a way that is accessible to an interdisciplinary audience.

Module content

Lectures will be 2 hours long, with the the 1st hour used to introduce the week’s topic and the 2nd hour used to give students hands-on experience designing and analysing simple experiments. A separate 1 hour seminar will give students opportunity to discuss the broader philosophical issues.

Assessment for the module will be a review essay, providing a review and evaluation of work in a particular area of x-phi, modelled on the style of review essay published in Trends in Cognitive Science. This essay should be written for an interdisciplinary audience, providing a ‘concise and curated’ update on the latest research in a particular area, indentifying future directions for research and current and future limitations (see Instructions for Authors, on which the essay guidelines will be modelled)


Task Length % of module mark
Summative Assessment
N/A 100

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
Summative Assessment
N/A 100

Module feedback

Formative feedback will be returned within two weeks.

Summative feedback will be returned within the timescale set by the department and University.

Indicative reading

Appiah, K. 2007. ‘Experimental Philosophy’, Presidential Address of the APA 2007:

Buckwalter, W. and Stich, S. Gender and Philosophical Intuition, in J. Knobe and S. Nichols eds. Experimental Philosophy, v2. Oxford University Press.

Cappelen, H. 2012. Philosophy Without Intuitions (Oxford University Press)

Frances et. al. 2017. Simulating Moral Actions: An Investigation of Personal Force in Virtual Moral Dilemmas, Nature: Scientific Reports:

Knobe, J. 2006. ‘The Concept of Intentional Action: A Case Study in the Use of Folk

Psychology’, Philosophical Studies 130: 203-231.

Knobe, J. and Nichols, S. 2008a. ‘An Experimental Philosophy Manifesto’, in Knobe and

Nichols eds. Experimental Philosophy (Oxford University Press).

Nagel, J. 2012. ‘Intuitions and Experiments: A Defence of the Case Method in Epistemology, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 85.

Nahmias, E., Morris, S., Nadelhoffer, T., and Turner, J. 2006. ‘Is Incompatibilism Intuitive?’ Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 73: 28-53.

Systsma, J. and Machery, E. 2010. Two Conceptions of Subjective Experience, Philosophical Studies 151: 299-327.

Weatherson, B. 2003. ‘What Good Are Counter-Examples?’ Philosophical Studies 115: 1-31.

Weinberg, J., Nichols, S., and Stich, S. 2001. ‘Normativity and Epistemic Intuitions’, Philosophical Topics 29: 429-460. Reprinted in Knobe and Nichols eds., Experimental Philosophy (Oxford University Press, 2008).

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.