From the new experimental philosophy reader, edited by Joshua Knobe and Shaun Nichols:
It used to be commonplace that the discipline of philosophy was deeply concerned with questions about the human condition. Philosophers thought about human beings and how their minds worked. They took an interest in reason and passion, culture and innate ideas, the origins of people’s moral and religious beliefs. On this traditional conception, it wasn’t particularly important to keep philosophy clearly distinct from psychology, history, or political science. Philosophers were concerned, in a very general way, with questions about how everything fit together.
The new movement of experimental philosophy seeks a return to this traditional vision. Like philosophers of centuries past, we are concerned with questions about how human beings actually happen to be. We recognize that such an inquiry will involve us in the study of phenomena that are messy, contingent and highly variable across times and places, but we do not see how that fact is supposed to make the inquiry any less genuinely philosophical. On the contrary, we think that many of the deepest questions of philosophy can only be properly addressed by immersing oneself in the messy, contingent, highly variable truths about how human beings really are.
But there is also an important respect in which experimental philosophers depart from this earlier tradition. Unlike the philosophers of centuries past, we think that a critical method for figuring out how human beings think is to go out and actually run systematic empirical studies. Hence, experimental philosophers proceed by conducting experimental investigations of the psychological processes underlying people’s intuitions about central philosophical issues…