Philosophers May 4, 2013

Philosophers, a survey: “The Davids distributed their questionnaire to 1,972 philosophers at 99 of the world’s “leading departments of philosophy” (in this case, their target group comprised predominantly Ph.D.-granting departments in English speaking countries, giving rise to an acknowledged bias toward analytic or Anglocentric philosophy). The questionnaire consisted of a background survey, 30 multiple choice questions, and a metasurvey that asked philosphers to predict how their colleagues would weigh in. A little under half of the target faculty group completed the survey. Here are their responses:

1. A priori knowledge: yes 71.1%; no 18.4%; other 10.5%.
2. Abstract objects: Platonism 39.3%; nominalism 37.7%; other 23.0%.
3. Aesthetic value: objective 41.0%; subjective 34.5%; other 24.5%.
4. Analytic-synthetic distinction: yes 64.9%; no 27.1%; other 8.1%.
5. Epistemic justification: externalism 42.7%; internalism 26.4%; other 30.8%.
6. External world: non-skeptical realism 81.6%; skepticism 4.8%; idealism 4.3%; other 9.2%.
7. Free will: compatibilism 59.1%; libertarianism 13.7%; no free will 12.2%; other 14.9%.
8. God: atheism 72.8%; theism 14.6%; other 12.6%.
9. Knowledge claims: contextualism 40.1%; invariantism 31.1%; relativism 2.9%; other 25.9%.
10. Knowledge: empiricism 35.0%; rationalism 27.8%; other 37.2%.”

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  • Got to go to the link.

    Last Question:

    30. Zombies:
    Conceivable but not metaphysically possible 35.6%; metaphysically possible 23.3%; inconceivable 16.0%; other 25.1%.

  • Sam

    Wow, didn’t know there were that many philosophers who are compatibilists on the question of free-will. Guess I’m really at odds with the academy there…

  • Kyle

    Philosophy is so specialized, that the metaresults mean little more than asking people on the street. You can see it in the differences between the specialists and non-specialists. 80% of non-specialists (those outside of philosophy of religion) were atheist, but only 20% of philosophers of religion were atheist, whose primary question is the existence of God.

  • Nicholas

    Hipster philosophers… all answering “other”. They can’t define me!

  • Stacey Douglas

    Scot, can you post a link or reference to the source for this data? I would find that usefu. Thanks!

  • Stacey Douglas

    Uhm, ok – found it. Sigh.

  • Marshall

    You can’t even attempt to respond to a survey like this without being what I would call Analyitic (and historically situated). But it’s nice they have opinions, anyway, so many don’t.

  • Mike M

    So half don’t think their ideas matter?
    I’d like to see how the German philosophers would answer.

  • mkmangold

    Speaking of philosophers, please keep Dallas Willard and his family in your prayers.

  • Leo


    To set the record straight, the target group consisted of: “we chose as a target group all regular faculty members in 99 leading de- partments of philosophy. These include the 86 Ph.D.-granting departments in English- speaking countries rated 1.9 or above in the Philosophical Gourmet Report. They also include ten departments in non-English-speaking countries (all from continental Europe) and three non-Ph-D.-granting departments. These thirteen departments were chosen in consultation with the editor of the Gourmet Report and a number of other philosophers, on the grounds of their having strength in analytic philosophy comparable to the other 86 departments. The overall list included 62 departments in the US, 18 in the UK, 10 in Europe outside the UK, 7 in Canada, and 5 in Australasia”……”To determine the membership of the target group, we used faculty lists drawn from the Gourmet Report, supplemented with information from department websites. The final target group included 1,972 philosophers.”…”In addition to inviting the target group, we allowed anyone to take the survey, in- cluding professional philosophers from other departments, students, and others. The Survey was advertised to all registered PhilPapers users (approximately 15,000 users at the time) through one direct email announcement, and was also announced on the PhilPapers website and in other places on the web. This group is less well-controlled than the target group, however, so we concentrate mainly on results from the target group in what follows.”…….

    Of that group, the actual target group had an 83.3% Atheism response; in other words, the percentage of professional philosophers who do not believe in god is actually 83.3% whereas the Metasurvey group estimated the response from the target group would be 72.8% ; the metasurvey group underestimated the atheism levels by 10.4%. The target group clearly were not non-specialists as you seem to think from your remarks.

    Check the stats and source of this data here: