Philosophical habits of mind

In an interesting short paper from 1993, Bernard Baars and Katharine McGovern list several philosophical “habits of mind” and contrast them with typical scientific habits of mind. The philosophical habits of mind they list, somewhat paraphrased, are:

  1. A great preference for problems that have survived centuries of debate, largely intact.
  2. A tendency to set the most demanding criteria for success, rather than more achievable ones.
  3. Frequent appeal to thought experiments (rather than non-intuitional evidence) to carry the major burden of argument.
  4. More focus on rhetorical brilliance than testability.
  5. A delight in paradoxes and “impossibility proofs.”
  6. Shifting, slippery definitions.
  7. A tendency to legislate the empirical sciences.

I partially agree with this list, and would add several items of my own.

Obviously this list does not describe all of philosophy. Also, I think (English-language) philosophy as a whole has become more scientific since 1993.


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