As some of you may know, the movement known as 'experimental philosophy' was not the first to suggest running rigorous experimental studies about people's ordinary intuitions. There was a philosophical movement in the mid-twentieth century that conducted studies along similar lines, but that earlier movement was completely defeated by its more a prioristic opponents.
Independent of any philosophical significance this earlier movement may have had, it seems amply worthy of study on a purely historical level. If we want to understand how twentieth century analytic philosophy ended up taking the form it did, it seems like we need a better understanding of how it was able to fend off approaches that called for more systematic empirical research.
This question seems especially pressing when it comes to approaches within analytic philosophy that emphasized the importance of ordinary language. Proponents of this 'ordinary language philosophy' showed an interesting mixture of commitments. On one hand, they argued that facts about ordinary language were of vital significance to philosophy. On the other, they were strongly opposed to the idea of gathering any empirical data about how ordinary language actually worked. As a historical matter, the success of an approach that combined these two commitments seems like a very striking one, which calls out for explanation.
In a recent paper, Taylor Murphy offers a rich historical discussion of twentieth century experimental work in philosophy, and I hope that his paper will inspire further historical work in this area.
Two especially striking facts from Murphy's paper: