Sunday, July 26, 2020

Does Studying Philosophy Change Your Real-World Behavior: Schwitzgebel vs. Schwitzgebel?

In a coincidence of timing, two seemingly contradictory pieces of work by me are both being released today.

One is an interview of me by Ray Briggs and Josh Landy at Philosophy Talk on "the ethical jerk". The interview focuses on my work on the moral behavior of ethics professors, in which (mostly in collaboration with Josh Rust), I find over and over again that professional ethicists do not behave much differently from socially similar comparison groups (such as other professors of philosophy and professors in departments other than philosophy). In particular, Josh and I found that despite ethicists being much more likely than other professors to say that it's bad to each the meat of mammals such as beef and pork, ethicists did not detectably differ from other professors in their self-reports about whether they ate the meat of a mammal at their previous evening meal. (However, see Schoenegger and Wagner's different results here, and my discussion here.)

The second is an empirical paper, collaborative with Brad Cokelet and Peter Singer. From the abstract:

We assigned 1332 students in four large philosophy classes to either an experimental group on the ethics of eating meat or a control group on the ethics of charitable giving. Students in each group read a philosophy article on their assigned topic and optionally viewed a related video, then met with teaching assistants for 50-minute group discussion sections. They expressed their opinions about meat ethics and charitable giving in a follow-up questionnaire (1032 respondents after exclusions). We obtained 13,642 food purchase receipts from campus restaurants for 495 of the students, before and after the intervention. Purchase of meat products declined in the experimental group (52% of purchases of at least $4.99 contained meat before the intervention, compared to 45% after) but remained the same in the control group (52% both before and after). Ethical opinion also differed, with 43% of students in the experimental group agreeing that eating the meat of factory farmed animals is unethical compared to 29% in the control group.

If you feel some tension between these two perspectives, I do too. Does studying philosophical arguments for vegetarianism change people's behavior or not? No, you might think, based on the ethics professors results. Yes, you might think, based on the students' results.

Cokelet, Singer, and I address this apparent conflict near the end of the article:

These data can be reconciled with Schwitzgebel and Rust's (2014) noneffects in at least two ways. As Schwitzgebel (2019a) notes, to the extent ethicists' moral behavior is guided by social conformity with non-ethicist peers, ethicists would not be expected to behave differently than their non-ethicists peers, even as their philosophical expertise grows and their opinions change. In contrast, students' opinions about peer behavior might change considerably as a result of ethics instruction, with behavior following suit. Alternatively but not incompatibly, Nahmias (2012) has suggested that Schwitzgebel's null results for ethicists may be compatible with moral behavioral change among philosophy students if professors tend to be settled in their ways, having already undergone, as undergraduates, all the moral change that exposure to philosophy is likely to inspire.

Even these explanations might be too simple, though. I am increasingly convinced that the philosophical ethical reflection changes behavior mainly when the reflection includes a personal, emotional, or narrative dimension -- as suggested by Lori Gruen on the issue of vegetarianism here and as suggested by my student Chris McVey's recent PhD dissertation (some preliminary results here, publishable writeup pending).

(P.S. I'm on vacation, so responses might be slower than usual.)

Thursday, July 23, 2020

The 233 Most-Cited Works in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Last summer my son David and I scraped the bibliographies out of the massive Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy to generate a list of the 295 most cited contemporary authors in the Stanford Encyclopedia. I have found that this approach gives more plausible results as a measure of influence in mainstream Anglophone philosophy than do other quantitative bibliometric approaches (like Google Scholar rankings or Web of Science).

Last fall, I'd meant to do one more project with the data -- but things pulled me away, and I'm only now returning to it. That's a list of most cited works in the Stanford Encyclopedia. My most-cited authors approach, at least as I implemented it, might have tended to overplay the impact of philosophers with moderate contributions to several fields relative to philosophers who published one or two field-changing works. (Thomas Kuhn, for example, ranks only #75 on last year's list, despite his transformative impact on philosophy of science.) Also, tracking influential works is an interesting project in its own right, separate from the project of tracking influential philosophers.

Before proceeding to the list, notes and caveats.

(1.) Each work counts once per main-page bibliographic entry in the SEP. Thus, a work with a total of 33 is cited in 33 different main page entries. Subpage entries are not included.

(2.) What counts as the "same work"? The distinction admits vague and contentious cases, and implementing it mechanically raises further problems. Here's what I did: To count as the same work, the work had to begin with exactly the same title words (excluding punctuation marks, "a", "an", or "the"). Later editions were counted as the same work as earlier editions (including in a few cases of "such-and-such revisited" or the like) and articles republished in collections were counted as the same work if the particular article rather than the collection as a whole was cited. Also, works that appeared first as articles then later were expanded into books with the same or similar title were counted as the same work. Multi-volume works counted as the same work if citations were generally to all volumes as a single bibliographic entry (Parfit's On What Matters); but not if citations were generally to a specific volume (Lewis's Philosophical Papers). A specific paper in a volume (e.g., "Causation" in Philosophical Papers, Vol 2) would then be classed as the "same work" as the Journal of Philosophy article of the same title rather than as the same work as a general citation of that volume.

(3.) Historical philosophers, especially non-Anglophone philosophers, have low counts for several reasons. First, historical entries often treat primary texts in a separate section, not listing those texts among the bibliographic sections we scraped. Second, historical texts are often cited under different titles that my procedure would not match (e.g., in the original language, or in translation, or in different translations, or in differently titled collections). Also, in general, non-historical entries in the Stanford Encyclopedia vastly disproportionately cite recent work. See my notes at the end for further reflections.

(4.) Citations in the role of editor are not included.

(5.) Please excuse the haphazard cut-and-paste formatting. Dates are sometimes first appearance, sometimes later appearance or edition or translation.

(6.) Corrections welcome, as long as they are consistent with the principles above and don't constitute a distortive general revision, unsystematically applied on one author's behalf, of the method described in the technical details at the end of the post.


The 233 Most-Cited Works in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

1. (cited in 115 main-page entries) Rawls, J. (1972), A Theory of Justice.
2. (cited in 88) Kripke, S. (1980). Naming and Necessity.
3t. (63) Lewis, David, 1986, On the Plurality of Worlds.
3t. (63) Nozick, Robert, 1974, Anarchy, State and Utopia.
3t. (63) Quine, W.V.O., 1960, Word & Object.
6. (62) Parfit, Derek, 1984, Reasons and Persons.
7. (56) Scanlon, T.M., 1998. What We Owe to Each Other.
8. (55) Wittgenstein, Ludwig, 1953, Philosophical Investigations.
9. (53) Chalmers, D., 1996, The Conscious Mind.
10. (48) Rawls, John, 1993, Political Liberalism.
11. (47) Kuhn, T.S., 1970 [1962], The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.
12. (45) Putnam, Hilary, 1975, “The Meaning of ‘Meaning’”.
13t. (43) Moore, G. E., 1903/1993a, Principia Ethica.
13t. (43) Quine, W. V. O., 1953, “Two Dogmas of Empiricism”.
15. (41) Russell, Bertrand, 1903, The Principles of Mathematics.
16t. (40) Sidgwick, H. (1907), The Methods of Ethics.
16t. (40) Williamson, Timothy, 2000, Knowledge and Its Limits.
18t. (39) Hume, David, 1978, A Treatise of Human Nature.
18t. (39) Jackson, F., 1998, From Metaphysics to Ethics.
18t. (39) van Fraassen, Bas C. 1980, The Scientific Image.
21. (38) Kaplan, David, 1989, “Demonstratives”.
22t. (37) Carnap, R., 1956, Meaning and Necessity.
22t. (37) Lewis, David, 1973, Counterfactuals.
24t. (36) Nozick, Robert, 1981, Philosophical Explanations.
24t. (36) Russell, B., 1905. ‘On Denoting’.
26. (35) Fodor, J., 1987, Psychosemantics.
27t. (34) Popper, Karl, 1934, The Logic of Scientific Discovery.
27t. (34) Raz, J., 1986. The Morality of Freedom.
27t. (34) Ross, W. D., 1930, The Right and the Good.
30t. (33) Ayer, A.J., 1936, Language Truth, and Logic.
30t. (33) Ryle, Gilbert, 1949. The Concept of Mind.
32. (32) Evans, Gareth, 1982, The Varieties of Reference.
33t. (31) Korsgaard, Christine M. (1996). The Sources of Normativity.
33t. (31) Locke, John (1690/1975), An Essay Concerning Human Understanding.
35t. (30) Dretske, F., 1981, Knowledge and the Flow of Information.
35t. (30) Gauthier, David, 1986. Morals by Agreement.
35t. (30) Mackie, J., 1977, Ethics: Inventing Right and Wrong.
35t. (30) Russell, B., 1912. The Problems of Philosophy.
39t. (29) Armstrong, David M., 1968, A Materialist Theory of Mind.
39t. (29) Armstrong, D.M., 1997, A World of States of Affairs.
39t. (29) Goodman, N., 1954, Fact, Fiction and Forecast.
39t. (29) Lewis, David, 1969, Convention, a Philosophical Study.
39t. (29) Plantinga, Alvin, 1974, The Nature of Necessity.
39t. (29) Wittgenstein, L., 1921, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus.
45t. (28) Dummett, M., 1973, Frege, Philosophy of Language.
45t. (28) Rawls, John, 2001, Justice as Fairness.
45t. (28) Wiggins, D., 1980, Sameness and Substance.
50t. (27) Dennett, D.C., 1991. Consciousness Explained.
50t. (27) Gibbard, Allan, 1990, Wise Choices, Apt Feelings.
50t. (27) McDowell, J., 1994a. Mind and World.
50t. (27) Nagel, T., 1986, The View From Nowhere.
50t. (27) Searle, John R., 1983, Intentionality.
50t. (27) Strawson, P. F., 1959, Individuals.
50t. (27) Woodward, J., 2003, Making Things Happen.
55t. (26) Davidson, D., 1980. Essays on Actions and Events.
55t. (26) Jackson, F., 1982. ‘Epiphenomenal qualia’.
55t. (26) Millikan, R. G., 1984. Language, Thought and Other Biological Categories.
55t. (26) Williams, Bernard, 1985. Ethics and the Limit of Philosophy.
59t. (25) Butler, Judith, 1990, Gender Trouble.
59t. (25) Chisholm, R., 1977, Theory of Knowledge.
59t. (25) Lewis, D., 1973, “Causation”.
59t. (25) van Inwagen, 1990, Material Beings.
63t. (24) Putnam, H., 1981. Reason, Truth and History.
63t. (24) Smith, Michael, 1994, The Moral Problem.
63t. (24) Stalnaker, R. 1987. Inquiry.
63t. (24) Young, Iris Marion, 1990, Justice and the Politics of Difference.
67t. (23) Anderson, Elizabeth. 1999. “What is the Point of Equality”.
67t. (23) Brandom, R. 1994, Making it Explicit.
67t. (23) Carnap, R. 1962. Logical Foundations of Probability.
67t. (23) Dretske, F., 1995, Naturalizing the Mind.
67t. (23) Gilligan, Carol, 1982, In a Different Voice.
67t. (23) Hare, R.M., 1952, The Language of Morals.
67t. (23) Lewis, D., 1983. “New Work For a Theory of Universals”.
67t. (23) Nagel, Ernest, 1961, The Structure of Science.
67t. (23) Nagel, T. (1974). What is it like to be a bat?
67t. (23) Russell, B., 1918, “The Philosophy of Logical Atomism”.
67t. (23) Sellars, Wilfrid. 1963. “Empiricism and the Philosophy of Mind”.
67t. (23) Tye, Michael, 1995, Ten Problems of Consciousness.
67t. (23) Whitehead, A. N. and B. Russell (1925). Principia Mathematica.
80t. (22) Blackburn, S., 1998, Ruling Passions.
80t. (22) Burge, T., 1979, “Individualism and the Mental”.
80t. (22) Dworkin, Ronald, 1977. Taking Rights Seriously.
80t. (22) Fodor, J. A., 1975, The Language of Thought.
80t. (22) Hart, H.L.A., 1994. The Concept of Law.
80t. (22) Jeffrey, R., 1983, The Logic of Decision.
80t. (22) Kneale, W. and Kneale, M., 1962, The Development of Logic.
80t. (22) Pearl, J., 2000, Causality.
80t. (22) Quine, W. V. O., 1948. ‘On What There Is’.
80t. (22) Quine, W. V. O., 1970, Philosophy of Logic.
80t. (22) Ramsey, F. P., 1926, “Truth and Probability”.
80t. (22) Rawls, J., 1999, The Law of Peoples.
80t. (22) Spirtes, Peter, Clark Glymour, and Richard Scheines, 1993, Causation, Prediction, and Search.
80t. (22) Zalta, E., 1983, Abstract Objects.
94t. (21) Anderson, A.R., Belnap, N.D. Jr., and Dunn, J.M., 1992, Entailment.
94t. (21) Chisholm, Roderick M., 1976, Person and Object.
94t. (21) Dupré, John, 1993. The Disorder of Things.
94t. (21) Dworkin, R., 2000, Sovereign Virtue.
94t. (21) Kant, Immanuel, 1781/87 [1987], Critique of Pure Reason.
94t. (21) Kripke, S., 1982. Wittgenstein on Rules and Private Language.
94t. (21) Nussbaum, M., 2000, Women and Human Development.
94t. (21) Pogge, Thomas, 2008. World Poverty and Human Rights.
102t. (20) Brink, David, 1989. Moral Realism and the Foundations of Ethics.
102t. (20) Chisholm, R., 1957, Perceiving.
102t. (20) Dancy, J., 2006, Ethics without Principles.
102t. (20) Finnis, J., 2011, Natural Law and Natural Rights.
102t. (20) Gettier, E. (1963). Is Justified True Belief Knowledge?
102t. (20) Grice, H. P., 1989. Studies in the Way of Words.
102t. (20) Griffin, J., 1986. Well-Being.
102t. (20) Hempel, C., 1965, Aspects of Scientific Explanation and Other Essays in the Philosophy of Science.
102t. (20) Kitcher, P., 1993. The advancement of science.
102t. (20) MacIntyre, Alasdair, 1984, After Virtue.
102t. (20) Quine, W.V.O, 1961, From a Logical Point of View.
102t. (20) Searle, John, 1963, Speech Acts.
102t. (20) Sider, T., 2001, Four-Dimensionalism.
102t. (20) Swinburne, Richard, 1977, The Coherence of Theism.
102t. (20) Williamson, Timothy, 2007, The Philosophy of Philosophy.
117t. (19) Anscombe, G. E. M., 1963. Intention.
117t. (19) Blackburn, Simon, 1984, Spreading the Word.
117t. (19) Brandt, R., 1979. A Theory of the Good and the Right.
117t. (19) Dennett, Daniel, 1987, The Intentional Stance.
117t. (19) Dretske, Fred, 1988, Explaining Behavior.
117t. (19) Fischer, John Martin and Mark Ravizza, 1998, Responsibility and Control.
117t. (19) Fodor, Jerry, 1983, The Modularity of Mind.
117t. (19) Frankfurt, Harry, 1971. ‘Freedom of the Will and the Concept of a Person’.
117t. (19) Hare, R. M., 1981, Moral Thinking.
117t. (19) Okin, Susan, 1989, Justice, Gender and the Family.
117t. (19) Shafer-Landau, Russ, 2003, Moral Realism: A Defence.
117t. (19) Strawson, P.F., 1962, “Freedom and Resentment”.
117t. (19) Tarski, A., 1956, Logic, Semantics, Metamathematics Papers from 1923–1939.
117t. (19) Turing, Alan M., 1936, “On Computable Numbers with an Application to the Entscheideungproblem”.
131t. (18) Armstrong, David Malet, 1978, Universals and Scientific Realism.
131t. (18) Austin, J.L., 1962, How to do Things with Words.
131t. (18) Davidson, D., 1963, “Actions, Reasons and Causes”.
131t. (18) Dawkins, R., 1976. The selfish gene.
131t. (18) Fodor, J.A., 1974, “Special Sciences (Or: The Disunity of Science as a Working Hypothesis)”.
131t. (18) Hobbes, T., 1968, Leviathan.
131t. (18) MacKinnon, C., 1989, Toward a Feminist Theory of State.
131t. (18) Nussbaum, Martha C., 2006, Frontiers of Justice.
131t. (18) Parfit, Derek, 2011, On What Matters.
131t. (18) Priest, Graham, 2006, In Contradiction.
131t. (18) Rorty, Richard, 1979, Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature.
131t. (18) Savage, Leonard, 1972, The Foundations of Statistics.
131t. (18) Searle, J., 1992, The Rediscovery of the Mind.
131t. (18) Street, S., 2006, “A Darwinian Dilemma for Realist Theories of Value”.
131t. (18) van Fraassen, B., 1989, Laws and Symmetry.
131t. (18) Wright, C., 1983. Frege’s Conception of Numbers as Objects.
147t. (17) Axelrod. R., 1984, The Evolution of Cooperation.
147t. (17) Carnap, R., 1950. ‘Empiricism, Semantics and Ontology’.
147t. (17) Cartwright, N., 1983, How the Laws of Physics Lie.
147t. (17) Davidson, D., 1971, ‘Mental events'.
147t. (17) Davidson, D., 1984, Inquiries into Truth and Interpretation.
147t. (17) Dummett, Michael, 1991, The Logical Basis of Metaphysics.
147t. (17) Feyerabend, P., 1975, Against Method.
147t. (17) Field, Hartry, 1989, Realism, Mathematics and Modality.
147t. (17) Fine, K., 1994. “Essence and Modality”.
147t. (17) Fodor, Jerry, 1990, A Theory of Content and Other Essays.
147t. (17) Goodman, N. (1976), Languages of Art.
147t. (17) Grice, H. P., 1975. “Logic and Conversation”.
147t. (17) Hacking, I., 1983. Representing and Intervening.
147t. (17) Hintikka, Jaakko (1961), Knowledge and Belief.
147t. (17) Lewis, David K., 1991, Parts of Classes.
147t. (17) Lycan, W.G., 1996, Consciousness and Experience.
147t. (17) Machamer, P. K., Darden, L., and C. Craver, 2000, “Thinking About Mechanisms”.
147t. (17) Noë, Alva, 2004, Action in Perception.
147t. (17) Perry, J., 1979, “The Problem of the Essential Indexical”.
147t. (17) Rawls, J., 1955, ‘Two Concepts of Rules’.
147t. (17) Salmon, Nathan U., 1986, Frege’s Puzzle.
147t. (17) Shannon, C. E. 1948. “A Mathematical Theory of Communcation”.
147t. (17) Stalnaker, Robert, 1968, “A Theory of Conditionals”.
147t. (17) Stich, S., 1983, From Folk Psychology to Cognitive Science.
147t. (17) Tarski, A., 1933, “The Concept of Truth in Formalised Languages”.
172t. (16) Armstrong, D.M., 2004, Truth and Truthmakers.
172t. (16) Blackburn, Simon, 1993, Essays in Quasi-Realism.
172t. (16) Bratman, M., 1987, Intention, Plans, and Practical Reason.
172t. (16) Cartwright, N., 1999, The Dappled World.
172t. (16) Dummett, M., 1978. Truth and Other Enigmas.
172t. (16) Field, H., 1980, Science Without Numbers.
172t. (16) Geach, Peter T., 1980, Reference and Generality.
172t. (16) Goldman, Alvin I., 1999, Knowledge in a Social World.
172t. (16) Harman, Gilbert, 1986. Change in View.
172t. (16) Hilbert, David and William Ackermann, 1928, Grundzüge Der Theoretischen Logik.
172t. (16) Hume, David, 1751 [1975], Enquiries concerning Human Understanding and concerning the Principles of Morals.
172t. (16) Keynes, John Maynard, 1921, A Treatise on Probability.
172t. (16) Lehrer, Keith, 2000, Theory of Knowledge.
172t. (16) Longino, Helen E., 1990. Science as Social Knowledge.
172t. (16) McMahan, J., 2003, The Ethics of Killing.
172t. (16) Parsons, T., 1980, Nonexistent Objects.
172t. (16) Peacocke, Christopher, 1992, A Study of Concepts.
172t. (16) Prior, A.N., 1967, Past, Present and Future.
172t. (16) Salmon, Nathan, 1981, Reference and Essence.
172t. (16) Sandel, Michael J. (1982). Liberalism and the Limits of Justice.
172t. (16) Schneewind, J. B., 1998, The Invention of Autonomy.
172t. (16) Sober, Elliott, and David Sloan Wilson, 1998. Unto Others.
172t. (16) Taylor, C., 1989. Sources of the Self.
172t. (16) Tye, M., 2000. Consciousness, Color, and Content.
172t. (16) Walzer, Michael, 1983. Spheres of Justice.
172t. (16) Williams, B., 1981a. Moral Luck.
198t. (15) Alcoff, Linda Martín (2006). Visible Identities.
198t. (15) Annas, J., 1993, The Morality of Happiness.
198t. (15) Armstrong, D.M., 1989, Universals: An Opinionated Introduction.
198t. (15) Bell, J.S., 1987, Speakable and Unspeakable in Quantum Mechanics.
198t. (15) Block, N. (1995). “On a Confusion About A Function of Consciousness”.
198t. (15) Broad, Charles Dunbar, 1925, The Mind and Its Place in Nature.
198t. (15) Butler, Judith, 1993. Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of “Sex”.
198t. (15) Chomsky, N., 1965, Aspects of a Theory of Syntax.
198t. (15) Churchland, P. (1981). Eliminative Materialism and Propositional Attitudes.
198t. (15) Clark, A. (1997). Being There.
198t. (15) Dancy, J., 1993, Moral Reasons.
198t. (15) Darwall, Stephen, 2006, The Second Person Standpoint.
198t. (15) Fodor, J. 1998. Concepts.
198t. (15) Gibbard, A., 2003. Thinking How To Live.
198t. (15) Glymour, Clark, 1980, Theory and Evidence.
198t. (15) Goldman, Alvin, 1979. “What is Justified Belief”.
198t. (15) Graham, A.C., 1987, Disputers of the Tao.
198t. (15) Harman, G., 1990. ‘The intrinsic quality of experience’.
198t. (15) Howson, C. and P. Urbach, 2006, Scientific Reasoning.
198t. (15) Kane, R., 1996, The Significance of Free Will.
198t. (15) Kleene, S., 1952, Introduction to Metamathematics.
198t. (15) Lipton, P., 2004. Inference to the Best Explanation.
198t. (15) Longino, H. E., 2002, The Fate of Knowledge.
198t. (15) Marr, D., 1980. Vision.
198t. (15) Merleau-Ponty, M. 1945/1962. Phenomenology of Perception.
198t. (15) Pateman, Carole, 1988, The Sexual Contract.
198t. (15) Ross, W.D. (1939), Foundations of Ethics.
198t. (15) Russell, Bertrand, 1927, The Analysis of Matter.
198t. (15) Russell, B., 1914, Our Knowledge of the External World.
198t. (15) Schaffner, K., 1993, Discovery and Explanation in Biology and Medicine.
198t. (15) Singer, P., 1993. Practical Ethics.
198t. (15) Strawson, P., 1950. ‘On Referring’.
198t. (15) van Inwagen, Peter, 1978. An Essay on Free Will.
198t. (15) von Neumann, J. and O. Morgenstern, 1947. Theory of Games and Economic Behavior.
198t. (15) Wright, Crispin, 1992, Truth and Objectivity.

A Few Observations

(1.) As in the author-based SEP analyses, there are few women, people of color, and non-Anglophone philosophers on the list. The highest-ranked work by a woman is Korsgaard's Sources of Normativity (tied for 33), ETA: and a first-pass count suggests 20-22 works (9-10%) with a woman as author or co-author (among other things, I'm unclear on whether Butler should classed as nonbinary). I'm hesitant to make racial judgments -- and please let me know if I'm missing someone! -- the list appears to be entirely non-Latinx White, with the exception of Linda Martín Alcoff.

(2.) Bertrand Russell has seven works on the list, Jerry Fodor and David Lewis each have six, and David Armstrong and W.V.O. Quine have five. Russell's showing is surprising to me, given the relatively weak showing of works by other historical figures. Russell's Analysis of Matter appears on the list, but not for example Kant's Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals or Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics. This highlights several limitations of the method for older and non-English works. A search of "groundwork of the metaphysics of morals" or "groundwork for the metaphysics of morals" yields 39 main page hits -- enough to rank 18th on the current list if all hits were included. But the references are split among references broken into "primary sources" sections (which were not systematically enough formatted to be scrapable), references citing the German title first, references citing one of the English titles first (which are close enough they were merged for analysis), and cases in which the work is mentioned but not included in the reference list (perhaps because it's assumed that readers will be familiar enough with it not to require reference?). The Nicomachean Ethics had all these disadvantages plus also the disadvantage of often not being bibliographically formatted in the standard way, with publication and/or translation year before the title, which led to its being disproportionately missed (see 5 below). Mill's Utilitarianism is another conspicuous absence, despite being in English (a search for Mill and utilitarianism yields 105 main page hits) -- partly because citation is sometimes absent or in primary sources sections and partly because some citations are of volumes in the collected works instead. A final factor that might partly explain Russell's commanding presence is the arguably disproportionately large number of SEP entries devoted to formal philosophy (logic, math, and such), where Russell had great influence.

(3.) As a fan of Chinese philosophy, I was pleased to see that a work on the history of Chinese philosophy made the list: A.C. Graham's career-culminating Disputers of the Tao. In general, however, historians of philosophy are not well represented on this list.

(4.) As one might expect, this list has weaknesses complementary to the author-based list. If an author returns to an issue multiple times in different works, or publishes an idea both in a standalone article and as a chapter in a book with a different title, SEP citations might be distributed more thinly across those works than they would be if the author had instead expressed the same idea in a single, definitive treatment.

(5.) Technical details: The matching algorithm looked for matches in the first four letters of the author's name and the first five letters of the first text appearing after numbers, punctuation marks, "the", "an", or "a", which for standardly formatted entries is the title. I then alphabetically sorted and hand-checked all bibliographic lines with at least 15 exact matches of both of the two parameters. This took several hours and was probably imperfect, but was not as difficult as it might seem. Note also: The scrape was conducted last summer, so recent entries and recent updates won't figure into the totals.

[image source]

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Superficialism about Belief

I'm a superficialist about belief. On my view, to believe something is to match, to an appropriate degree and in appropriate respects, a "dispositional stereotype" composed of various behavioral, experiential, and cognitive dispositions. To believe something is just to be disposed to act and react as though you believe it -- outwardly in your planned and spontaneous behavior and inwardly in, for example, your inner speech, emotional responses, and implicit reasoning. (For more details, see here and here.) I prefer not to conceptualize belief structurally, for example in terms of the manipulation of representations stored in one or more functionally defined "boxes". It's this structural neutrality that makes my account superficial. Belief, on my view, concerns what's happening at the behavioral and experiential surface of cognition (and in patterns of transition between similarly superficial states). Facts about underlying architecture are irrelevant, except to the extent that of course there must be some underlying architectural facts or other that give rise to the surface patterns.

[Image: Cartesian vortices, from p. 55 of Le Monde]

I like to compare the architecture of belief to the architecture of personality traits. What is it to be extraverted? Plausibly, it's nothing more than to have a certain suite of dispositions -- being disposed to enjoy parties, to be talkative, to feel energized by meeting new people, to seek out social contact, etc. If you're like that, you're an extravert, and it doesn't really matter what underlying cognitive architecture implements that pattern. Maybe you have a big "E" written in some extraversion box. Maybe you've got some representation like "meeting new people is good" in your Value Box. Maybe your alpha-dongle is hooked up to your beta-flipper. It doesn't really matter. As long as you are robustly disposed to act and react, inwardly and outwardly, like an extravert, you're an extravert.

Now one disadvantage of superficialism, which has been repeatedly emphasized to me by Eric Mandelbaum (including in a published critique of my view with Jake Quilty-Dunn here) is this: Superficialism is not as explanatorily rich as a view that commits to an underlying architectural story.

Why did the extravert enjoy the party? The superficialist will have to say something quasi-circular like, "Well, she's an extravert, and extraverts tend to enjoy parties". Someone with an alpha-dongle explanation can seemingly do better: "See, it's because the party released gamma juice, flooding the alpha-dongle which then made the beta-flipper go wild!" See how much more satisfying that explanation is. More satisfying, anyway, if there really is gamma juice and an alpha-dongle that we can see and measure, lining them up with the party and the mood. An explanation that goes from the observed surface to an inner functional architecture and then back up to another observed surface will, all else being equal, be better than an explanation that just says that the two observed surfaces tend to be associated.

Back to belief: I ask Alyssa, "What is the capital of California?" and she answers "Chicago". Why? The superficialist explanation is this: To believe that Chicago is the capital of California is just to be disposed to act and react in a variety of ways, including by answering "Chicago" to questions of that sort, and Alyssa fits this pattern. (Compare again to "why did the extravert enjoy the party?) A certain type of representationalist about belief has a seemingly more satisfying answer: To believe that Chicago is the capital of California is to have the representation "Chicago is the capital of California" stored in memory. When asked the question, that representation was retrieved from memory and processed in such and such a way, generating the answer "Chicago".

The representationalist's explanation sounds (superficially?) better. But is it better? That depends, I submit, on how good the architectural story is. I don't think the architectural story is all that good. Or, less commissively, I don't think the philosophical community is currently in a position to know that it's good in the way we ought to know that it's good before hanging our concept of belief on that story.

Consider this analogy. It's the late 1500s to mid 1600s, post-Copernicus, pre-Newton, with Tycho and Galileo and Kepler and Descartes and old-school Ptolemaists all theorizing about the planets. Everyone knows, of course, that Mars will trace such-and-such a path through the sky this coming August. But why does Mars do that? What's the explanation?

Structuralists offer various explanations: It's riding on a crystalline sphere! It's hooked to the Sun on magnetic chains! It's riding in a vortex of globules!

Superficialists refrain from such structurally commissive explanations, instead simply fitting the planetary motion into a pattern: that it will appear in such-and-such a trajectory in August fits with the general pattern of what we know about its motion, its overall pattern of progression and retrogression mapped over the years. The superficialist points to the predictive equations as explanation enough for now, without positing an underlying physical mechanism.

Now if it's the case that one of the structural explanations is correct, then indeed that structural explanation is better than explanation by showing how a particular incident fits within a larger superficially observed pattern. But if we don't yet know which if any of the structural explanations is correct, superficialists have the advantage of firmer ground: They refrain from committing prematurely. The best science of the day might suggest that it's vortices, but let's wait before going all-in on that. Certainly let's wait before building our philosophical definition of "planet" in terms of vortices. The superficialist will say, superficially, "to be a planet is to be one of those things we see in the sky that tend to move like this"; the structuralist will say, "to be a planet is to be a huge sphere that rides around the Sun in a vortex of globules".

Here's where I differ from Mandelbaum and other non-superficialists. I think we're still in the pre-Newtonian days regarding the cognitive architecture of belief. Storing representations with the content P in various functional boxes in the mind, then retrieving them when relevant for use in theoretical or practical inference, coupling P with other belief-representations like "P -> Q" or with some desire-representation R to generate intention T -- that's a cartoon story which can be useful for certain purposes, but it's probably not really what the cognitive architecture of belief is like underneath for at least relatively complicated beliefs like "there's a gas station on the corner" or "my children's happiness is more important than their success in school".

Until we have the right architecture, and know we have it, it's better to go superficial -- at least insofar as we are philosophers interested in a conception of belief that's empirically robust. The representationalist's appearance of a better explanation is as misleading as the vorticist's or crystalline sphere lover's appearance of a better explanation of planetary motion.

Of course, it's good that not everyone is as restrained as the superficialist is. It's good that Descartes pushed vortices and Ptolemaic astronomers pushed crystalline spheres and Kepler hypothesized about the magnetic power of the Sun. They were all overconfident and wrong! But where would science be without them?


Acknowledgement: This post was inspired by conversations with Eric Mandelbaum and others in a series of workshops run by Jonathan Jong under a Templeton grant.

Also: Superficialism does a better job with weirdly constructed aliens (Section 6 here). And in-between belief. And implicit bias. And it better captures what we do and should care about in thinking about belief. But never mind!

[image source]

Thursday, July 09, 2020

The Peak-End Theory of Dessert: A New Philosophy of Wolfing

My daughter Kate eats desserts slowly -- has done so as long as I can remember. She is what I'll call an extreme savorer. In other words, she is a completely irrational moral monster, as I will now endeavor to show.

I'll admit that on a superficial analysis, Kate's approach to dessert appears wise. Someone bakes brownies. Everyone in the family receives a brownie of equal size. My son's is gone in a flash. My wife and I eat ours moderately quickly. Kate delicately saws off an edge and puts it on her tongue, waits a while, saws off another edge. Ten, fifteen minutes later, Kate is still enjoying her brownie while the rest of the family watches enviously.

At such moments I think, "Why don't I slow down and savor my dessert like Kate does? She obviously derives much more sweet pleasure from her slow ways!" Several days later, of course, it's "Yum, ice cream sandwiches!" munch munch munch and once again after my share is gone I find myself envying Kate's slower pace.

[Kate at work on a Trader Joe's dark chocolate peanut butter cup]

Now I'd rather not see myself as quite as terribly irrational as this pattern suggests. Fortunately, being well-trained in both philosophy and psychology, I have a wealth of theoretical resources from which to concoct a plausible justification of pretty much anything. Our task for today, then, is to demonstrate that I am right and Kate is wrong.

We need a philosophy of wolfing.

The Peak-End Rule

In a classic series of studies, Daniel Kahneman, Donald Redelmeier, and collaborators found that in retrospectively evaluating negative or painful experiences, people tend to disregard the duration of the experience. Instead, people evaluate their experiences mostly based on how the experiences felt at their peak and how they felt at the end.

Some of the results are startling: For example, in one experiment, ordinary colonoscopy patients were either given standard painful colonoscopy procedures or instead the same standard painful procedures plus the extra (but less severe) discomfort have having the colonoscope rest in their rectum unmoving for an additional three minutes at the end. Patients reported their pain levels in real time throughout the procedure. The peak level of pain was the same in the two groups, as was the overall pain during the main part of the procedure. Consequently, patients in the second group had more total pain: the pain of the main procedure plus an extra three minutes of discomfort. Nonetheless, patients in the second group retrospectively reported having experienced less pain, and they reported a less negative overall attitude toward the procedure.

What's more, the patients acted accordingly: Over the next five years, patients who otherwise were predicted to have a low propensity to return for another colonoscopy (patients with less past history of colonoscopies and no detection of abnormalities) were more likely to return for another colonoscopy if they were in the experimental group who had received the extended procedure than if they were in the control group who had received the standard procedure.

Kahneman and colleagues found similar results with participants asked to hold their hands in painfully cold water. Participants held one hand for 60 seconds in water that was 14.1 degrees Celsius (painfully cold but not damaging) (Procedure A) and also, either before or after, held their other hand for 60 seconds in water that was the same 14.1 degrees C and then kept it in the water for an additional 30 seconds while the temperature was slowly raised to 15.2 degrees (still uncomfortably cold) (Procedure B). When told that they could choose either Procedure A or Procedure B for the third trial, most chose Procedure B. They chose more pain over less.

According to the "peak-end rule", the retrospective evaluation of either a positive or a negative experience is an average of the quality of the experience at its positive or negative peak and the quality of the experience at its end, with little regard for duration. Despite the fame of this rule (including in guides to managing one's business, etc.), it isn't as thoroughly studied as one might expect, and findings remain mixed.

Still, let's assume that something close to the peak-end rule is true about the enjoyment of desserts: How fondly you remember your dessert is a function mostly of the average of your most pleasant bite and your last bite.

Wolves Will Remember Dessert More Fondly

It should now seem plausible that if you wolf down your dessert, you will remember it more fondly.

The peak will be better: Instead of modest bite after modest bite of moderate pleasure, you will experience the unrestrained joy of a giant bite of popping deliciousness all at once. Maybe the best part is the cherry atop the icing. The wolf will get that great mouthful of cherry, icing, and cake all at once, while the savorer will have no such moment of sudden decadent indulgence.

The end will also be better: We grow weary of even the best things over time. Although the twentieth bite of chocolate is still good, it's never as wonderful as the first few bites. By bite twenty your mouth is accommodated to the sweetness, and the pleasure is only a temperate, lingering continuation. The last bite will be more flavorful if you don't take too long in getting around to it.

Furthermore, there is a joy in not holding back. What could be more childish fun than just diving in, biting the whole head off the Easter bunny or shoving a great spoonful of cherry, whip cream, and cake right into your mouth? The savorer's experience will always be tainted with the slightly unpleasant feeling of self-restraint.

This figure compares the Wolf's and the Savorer's dessert experiences over time:

[click to enlarge and clarify]

Although the savorer enjoys dessert longer and the total sum pleasure (represented by the total area between the line and the x axis) might be larger, both the peak and the end are higher for the wolf. If peak-end theory is correct and duration is mostly ignored, then looking back on the dessert, the wolf will think, "wow, that was great!" while the savorer will think "okay, that was pretty good".

"But Peak-End Reasoning Is Irrational!"

Look, I know what you savorers are thinking. It's irrational to choose according to the peak-end rule. It doesn't make sense to tack some extra pain at the end of a colonoscopy just so that it doesn't conclude on quite so vividly painful a note. You should want to immediately withdraw your hand from the cold water rather than keeping it immersed longer while the water warms slightly. We should want less total pain, not more. It's a mistake to disregard duration as much as we do. And the wolfer, you think, is making exactly that mistake, while the savorer rationally sacrifices peak pleasure for enduring pleasure. If she does it rightly, the savorer derives more total joy from her dessert, wisely shaping her behavior to maximize not the peak or the end but instead the entire integral under the line.

This argument errs in two ways.

First, part of the pleasure of dessert is remembering it fondly and anticipating the next one. (Colonoscopies might differ in this respect.) If the wolfer sustains a more positive attitude toward dessert due to his memory of a great peak and a good end, the wolfer multiplies that pleasure in recollection and planning. "Wow, do you remember how great those brownies were? Let's make more next week!" Smelling the next batch in the oven, or putting the Swiss chocolate in his shopping cart, the wolf rekindles his greater bliss.

Second, a life with peaks and valleys is overall better and more choiceworthy than a life at steady medium good. Here I side with Nietzsche against the Stoics. This is, I think, especially true on the positive side, when the valleys are not too low. (I would not wish suicidal depression on anyone.) Given a choice between 2 2 2 2 2 and 1 0 10 -1 0 -- both summing to ten units of pleasure -- give me the second every time. Give me the wolf's sloppy peak bite off the top of the sundae, even if it's finished soon, over the savorer's monotonous, slow licking.

Envy Becomes Pity and Maybe Forgiveness

Now that I am thinking about these matters clearly, I see that our envy of Kate's slow ways is misplaced. As we sit there watching her still eating her brownie, we envy her because we imagine the pleasure of wolfing down the brownie that remains before her. But we should pity Kate instead: In her faux wisdom she will never know that wolfish pleasure. Not only does she deprive herself, but she negligently or recklessly or even intentionally (as part of her pleasure?) teases and torments us wolves, which makes her choice not only prudentially but morally wrong.

But Kate, I promise not to judge you too harshly -- I will forgive you, even! -- if you will share that last bit of the peach cobbler with me. Pretty please?


If you enjoy my blog, check out my recent book: A Theory of Jerks and Other Philosophical Misadventures.

Monday, July 06, 2020

A Broad Ranging Interview at Scientific American

John Horgan and I discuss doubt and wonder, philosophical fiction, jerkitude, the moral mediocrity of ethicists, and the nature and value of the nerd, among other things.

Horgan: Why philosophy? Any regrets?

Schwitzgebel: No regrets yet!

Here’s why I love philosophy: For all X, you can do philosophy of X, just by diving down deep and long into the most fundamental questions about that topic. That’s what I enjoy, and I’ll do it for any topic that catches my attention—whether it’s the nature of jerkitude, garden snail cognition, robot rights or the moral behavior of ethics professors. What could be more fun?

Horgan: Why do you write fiction? Doesn't that mean philosophy isn't really that fulfilling for you?

Schwitzgebel: Wait, writing fiction can’t be a way of doing philosophy? Sartre, Rousseau, Zhuangzi, Voltaire, Nietzsche and Borges might disagree! Is anyone currently doing better work on the ethics of technology than the TV series Black Mirror?

For instance, weirdly implemented group minds feature both in my science fiction stories and in my expository philosophy. Under what conditions could there be real thought and consciousness at a group level?

[continued here]

Wednesday, July 01, 2020

Demographic Trends in the Philosophy Major Might Be Mostly Due to Pre-College Factors

by Eric Schwitzgebel, Morgan Thompson, and Eric Winsberg

As we mentioned last month, we recently obtained data from the Higher Education Research Institute (HERI) on intention to major in philosophy among first-year students in the U.S.

Today we will explore two questions.

First, it's well known that undergraduate philosophy majors in the U.S. are disproportionately men. For example, recent data from the National Center for Education Statistics show 36% of graduating Philosophy majors in the U.S. to be women, compared to 57% of graduating majors overall. Our first question is this: Are women also disproportionately less interested in the Philosophy major at the beginning of their first year of study?

The answer to this question is crucial to understanding the causes of the low proportion of women among graduating philosophy majors. If women begin their studies with less interest in philosophy than undergraduates as a whole, then the causes of disproportion trace back to something prior to college enrollment. In contrast, if women begin their studies with approximately proportionate interest in the Philosophy major, then their underrepresentation among Bachelor's recipients in Philosophy suggests that something in students' college experience is driving the disproportion.

Second, as Eric Schwitzgebel noticed last fall, the Philosophy major seems to be back on the rise in popularity while other humanities majors continue to fall. We wanted to see if the recent apparent increase in interest in Philosophy was also reflected in first-year intention to major. This is relevant to evaluating both the causes of and the likely persistence of the trend that Eric S. noticed last year.

First-Year Intention to Major by Sex, 2000-2016

Every fall, HERI gathers information from first-year undergraduates at a sample of U.S. colleges and universities, with about 200,000-400,000 respondents per year. One question asks respondents' sex, with response categories "male" and "female". About half of one percent of respondents decline to state. Another question asks for intended major, with "Philosophy" as one among dozens of choices.

This graph shows the percentage answering "female" among first-year students, both overall and in Philosophy, excluding students who declined to state.

[click to enlarge and clarify]

As the figure shows, first-year student respondents were about 56%-59% female across all majors throughout the period (54%-55% if nonresponse bias is taken into account; see below). From 2000-2012, 32% to 36% of first-year student respondents intending to major in philosophy were female. This compares with about 30-34% of women among graduating majors in Philosophy in the same period. Thus, female students appear to be disproportionately less interested in the Philosophy major from the beginning of their undergraduate studies. These results match with some earlier analyses of the HERI database by Christopher Dobbs and Philippe Lemoine.

There may be some further loss of interest among women -- about 2% in absolute percentage terms (32-36% vs 30-34%) -- between first year intention to major and completion of the major, but due to differences in methodology between HERI and NCES it's difficult to be confident about effects of this size, and we note that "female" and "woman", though approximately comparable, are not identical categories.[1]

The second striking feature of this graph is the recent increase in percentage of respondents intending to major in Philosophy who reported being female: 40%-43% in 2013-2016. This suggests that the increased percentage of women among Philosophy BA recipients that appeared in the NCES data from 2018, which we noticed last fall, may not be a blip but might be the beginning of a trend that showed up in first-year students in 2013. In fact, the timing is perfect. With a national average of five years to Bachelor's degree, a change in first-year students in the 2013-2014 academic year should be reflected in a change in graduating majors in the 2017-2018 academic year.

The change could be explained either by an increase in female students' interest in the Philosophy major or a decrease in male students' interest or both. This is a slightly complicated question which will first require us to address changes over time in the Philosophy major in general.

One big methodological caveat here is that the HERI data have some nonresponse and sampling problems: Not all colleges are included, with lower prestige public colleges especially undersampled, and not all students respond, and this skews the HERI demographic data.[2] Furthermore, the number of participating colleges declined substantially over the period in question. Some preliminary analyses we've tried suggest that nonresponse and over/undersampling might be an especially big issue with student race (which we hope to analyze in a future post), but only a minor issue with sex.

HERI provides researchers with a calculated variable "Student Weight", which represents their best attempt to overweight the responses of students from underrepresented portions of the sample and underweight the responses of students from overrepresented portions of the sample, with the hope that the weighted responses are representative of first-year students in the U.S. as a whole. (The NCES data, in contrast, are reported by administrators and are approximately complete.)

The results above are based on raw responses. We attempted to correct for sampling and nonresponse bias by multiplying all responses by HERI's Student Weight variable, but statistical noise became a problem. For example, using this method, estimates of the percentage of philosophy majors who were female jumped implausibly from 27% to 37% from 2013 to 2014. Since the Student Weight variable weights some students' responses several times more than others, it should be expected to amplify noise, and given the small numbers of female philosophy major respondents (207 in 2013), it's unsurprising that noise might be a limiting factor.

Overall, all trends reported in this post are confirmed when data are weighted by HERI's Student Weight variable. However, the percentage of philosophy majors overall might actually be somewhat lower than reported (due to disproportionate representation of elite schools, where Philosophy is more commonly chosen as a major) and the percentage of female students might be slightly lower (due to slightly higher response rates among female students at the included schools).

While History and English Continue to Fall, Philosophy Has Partly Recovered

In 2017, Eric S. noted sharp declines in completed Philosophy, History, and Language majors in the NCES database, followed the next year by a slight recovery or stabilization in Philosophy, while the other big humanities majors continued to decline.

We were curious to see if this would also reflected in the HERI data on first year intention to major. As with the data on sex, examination of the HERI patterns could give us insight into mechanisms (are these changes due to something happening before college or in college?) and also perhaps some basis for projection into the future.

This chart shows rise and decline in intention to major, normed to the year 2000.

[click to enlarge and clarify]

As the figure shows, the percentage of students majoring in History and English is about 2/3 of what it was in 2000. Philosophy showed an equally sharp decline in the early 2010s but seems to have partly recovered and is now at 86% of 2000 levels, while History and English continue to fall. As with gender, the timing shows a nice offset between HERI and NCES: The decline in first-year intention to major started in about 2010, while in the decline in completed Bachelor's degrees started in about 2014 or 2015.

As with sex, the timing offset and similar pattern in the HERI and NCES data suggest that the primary factors behind these demographic trends are pre-college.

The decline and partial recovery of interest in the philosophy major interacts with sex, as shown in this figure:

[click to enlarge and clarify]

As the figure shows, the percentage of female first-year students' intending to major in Philosophy has recovered fully to 2000 levels, but not so for male first-year students.

We conclude that those of us who are interested in exploring the causes of demographic trends in the philosophy major should look more carefully than is usually done at factors that might be influencing students' perceptions and intentions even before they enroll in college.


[1] Most non-women in the undergraduate population are men, but a small percentage will be non-binary. We are unaware of any good data source on the rates at which non-binary students choose to major in philosophy. This dataset from HERI does not ask for gender, so it is possible that many respondents are answering with gender rather than sex. HERI's Freshman Survey did not revise the question to be about one's gender identity until 2018 and did not add a question about whether the student is trans or cis until 2019. Unfortunately, we were unable to access those data due to temporary embargoes on more recent years' data.

[2] Unlike the NCES data, which is reported to the U.S. government by adminstrators at each institution, HERI collects data by selling U.S. universities and colleges the results of their survey for that particular institution. Wealthier institutions appear to be more likely to pay for this data collection and thus more likely to be represented in the HERI Freshman survey dataset than lower prestige colleges. The "Student Weight" variable discussed below is partly intended to help correct for demographic differences between wealthier, higher-prestige institutions and lower prestige public colleges.