Experimental philosophy to help answer life’s questions
Humans are essentially social beings. One expression of our deeply social nature is how much time we spend talking to, and thinking about, people. For thousands of years, philosophers have studied concepts at the heart of these social activities—including knowledge, agency and responsibility. Explaining the nature of these concepts has traditionally been viewed as one of philosophy’s main tasks.
John Turri, Canada Research Chair in Philosophy and Cognitive Science, is a leader in a new intellectual movement known as “experimental philosophy,” which uses scientific methods to answer philosophical questions. By utilizing methods from experimental science, Turri has made discoveries about concepts central to social cognition and communication, including knowledge, doubt, assertion, lying, luck and blame.
Turri will continue this work and expand the research in new directions, including judgments about the nature of persons, their spatial properties, moral obligations, knowledge and decisions. This research will answer philosophical questions while advancing scientific understanding of social cognition.
Improved understanding of social cognition has many potential benefits. For instance, it can shed new light on decision-making in the criminal justice system by predicting when jurors will view doubt as “reasonable,” or conclude that the defendant “knew” an action was illegal.