The what and why of feminist x-phi 

Experimental philosophy (x-phi) is the application of methods of empirical sciences to address traditionally philosophical questions. Over the last two decades, x-phi has gone a long way from its beginnings as an often frowned upon curiosity, to a well-established branch of the  philosophical mainstream. Prima facie, this success could be a welcome development from a broadly feminist standpoint. Firstly, since experimental research naturally invites collaborative work, x-phi encourages a break from the historic individualism of academic philosophy. Secondly, in emphasizing data over appeal to intuition and wit, x-phi has a potential to ameliorate academic philosophy’s notorious bias in favor of well-educated white straight cis men. Despite this, however, x-phi has an underwhelming track record of leveling the playing field in the discipline. In fact, several authors working in feminist epistemology have expressed principled reservations concerning the canonical methods of experimental philosophy (Pohlhaus 2015; Huminski 2018).

However, the underrepresentation and methodological problems are not obviously inherent to the very idea of x-phi so much as contingent features of the way it is practiced today. The main goal of this project is to correct for these two defects, with the hope of taking first steps towards fully unleashing x-phi’s emancipative potential. What this means, in other words, is that the project is not just concerned with increasing the participation of underrepresented groups in x-phi, or even to promote the application of empirical methods to questions in feminist philosophy (broadly construed) but to also improve x-phi by equipping people well-versed in feminist philosophy with the tools necessary to produce and engage with it.

The project, in more detail

The first part of the project will be a series of workshops on experimental feminist philosophy. To learn more about the workshops, and how to apply, check out the workshop link here.


The second part of the project will be the production of an x-phi lesson plan, suitable for an introductory philosophy class, to be posted on the project’s dedicated website. Empirical work has suggested that the biggest drop in women engaged in philosophy occurs between enrolment in introductory classes and electing to major in philosophy (Paxton, Figdor, and Tiberius 2012, 953–54; Buckwalter and Stich 2014, 333). This finding, in conjunction with the large numbers of women who elect to major in psychology – not to mention those studies that suggest that women are more likely to value observation, over intuition (Buckwalter and Turri 2016; cf. Adleberg, Thompson, and Nahmias 2015) – makes it plausible that introducing empirical work as philosophically relevant, at the introductory level, holds promise of keeping more women in philosophy.


Supported by:

With the backing of:

The CUNY Graduate Center's X-Phi Lab