Testing Philosophy Through Experiments

By Abraham Loeb

For thousands of years, philosophers pondered deep questions, such as whether the mind goes beyond the makeup of our body and allows free will, and whether moral values reflect universal truth similar to the laws of physics. Could we put their proposed answers to the test of modern science? Could we use experimental data to advance our knowledge on these questions?

Historically, psychological or anthropological studies of people addressed the possible illusion of free will (for example, by Dan Wegner in his book The Illusion of Conscious Will) or cultural variations in moral values. But observing a complex system like a human without having its blueprint or without the ability to dissect its constituents and reconstruct them from scratch, is far more challenging than figuring out how the hardware of an iPhone works by just interacting with it.

There are at least three new experimental frontiers that offer prospects for advances.

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