Thinking Off Your Feet: How Empirical Psychology Vindicates Armchair Philosophy

Harvard University Press, 2019

Thinking Off Your Feet book jacket

What is going on under the hood in philosophical analysis, that familiar process that attempts to uncover the nature of such philosophically interesting kinds as knowledge, causation, and justice by the method of posit and counterexample? How, in particular, do intuitions tell us about philosophical reality? The standard, if unappealing, answer is that philosophical analysis is conceptual analysis—that what we learn about when we do philosophy is in the first instance facts about our own minds. Drawing on recent work on the psychology of concepts, this book proposes a new understanding of philosophical analysis, which I call inductive analysis.

The thesis that philosophical analysis is inductive analysis explains how novel, substantive philosophical knowledge can be generated in the armchair. It also explains why attempts at philosophical analysis tend to fall short of providing a complete and uncontroversial definition, and supplies reasons not to lament this apparent shortcoming.

My contribution to a book symposium on Thinking Off Your Feet in Analysis (Précis and Reply to Critics)

Blogging Thinking Off Your Feet at the Brains blog

Sketch of Thinking Off Your Feet on the Harvard University Press blog

Thinking Off Your Feet's Harvard University Press page