Thursday, December 10, 2009

What Philosophers Believe

Recently, two philosophers, David Chalmers and David Bourget, conducted a survey to test what philosophers really believed. Over 3000 professional faculty, graduate students, and undergraduate students responded.

Granted, the numbers are somewhat skewed, having favored the Anglo-American analytic tradition much more heavily than the European Continental, Pragmatic, Comparative, etc schools, but it is still quite interesting to see what the percentages boiled down to.

Some of the answers are not very surprising - philosophers overwhelmingly tended to be atheists and realists. Others might surprise you more - such as 41% of philosophers surveyed claiming that there is an objective aesthetic value.

You can see the full result here.

In related news, I fully recommend reading this book, What We Believe, But Cannot Prove. (Apologies for the link to Amazon - it was the best I could find on short notice.) A compilation of dozens of contemporary leading scientists (of both the "hard" and "soft" sciences) and philosophers (of science, mind, and language), it highlights the various ways in which today's top thinkers, theorists, and practitioners of scientific knowledge actually think when they contemplate the structure of the world and the greater universe in which it exists. A fascinating read, most of the essays are short - one page or less, but even then, they are often engaging and engrossing, as well as enlightening about the educated and debated opinions of the top thinkers in the scientific community today.

Happy holidays.

-Christian Mecham