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I'm just an undergrad, so I can't speak for potentially offended traditional philosophers, but I did see it and the quasi-punk rock aesthetic as at least slightly cheap and lurid. I think that the philosophy community at large ought to, and inevitably will, take experimental philosophy seriously, but the hype efforts won't help.


I like the quasi-punk rock aesthetic precisely because it is "cheap and lurid"! Seriously though, most of that stuff is associated with the non-academic side of things (e.g., music video, myspace, tee shirts, etc.). In those contexts, I think it is both funny and harmless. In more serious contexts, I think we have made it clear in what senses we view ourselves as "burning armchairs" and in what senses we do not. As such, I think STBJD is largely right to think worrying about the issue is much ado about nothing. Of course, if someone is really offended by the imagery, they could always purchase and burn an x-phi tee shirt :)


I think what got me worried about collegiality in the first place was that the burning armchair *is* appearing in serious contexts, namely on the new XPS website (in the corner) and on adverts for Experimental Philosophy workshops (as much as you want to consider these serious contexts; I think I do).

And, though I think there's nothing particularly uncollegial about the burning armchair (as I indicate in the post), I think it does pose some problems (as also indicated) for trying to get your interlocutors to engage in a reasoned debate, where substantive points don't get lost in rhetorical flourishes (recall T. Williamson noting the experimental philosophers' 'philistine contempt for traditional philosophical methods' in an earlier post).

As such, the problem that others might have with the associated imagery becomes the experimental philosophers' problem of getting others to listen, engage, and not just have a knee-jerk reaction to the very serious work that is being conducted.

Anonymous (2:48)

Right. I was only sharing my aesthetic reaction to x-phi's non-academic side, which shouldn't have a consequence for its academic reception.

In any case, it's not really about burning the armchair and leaving it behind. What I like most about x-phi is that it recognizes in its methodology that legitimate armchair reflection requires empirical investigation -- and vice-versa. Whereas social psychology is somewhat a mess with its concepts and traditional philosophy lacked an understanding of the relevance of social cognitive and dual-processing issues, x-phi strikes me as well-positioned to make sense of it all.


I didn't mean to suggest that the imagery doesn't appear in serious contexts. After all, I was the one who asked Justin to work the little emblem into the XPS home page! I was merely pointing out that in those contexts the people with whom we are engaging know what we have in mind when we gesture at setting furniture ablaze (and if they don't, they simply need to read our work)! At the end of the day, I think the collegiality issue is a non-starter at least in the professional context. For instance, I presented at the x-phi workshop in Germany last year that was called "Armchair in Flames?" It was very collegial despite the widely variant views being expressed about philosophical methodology. Of course, there are some people who may be entirely put off by the imagery and rhetoric, but I figure if they can't look past a cartoon pic of an armchair in flames to see the serious arguments we have put forward, I am unsure why I should care about their being up in arms.

That being said, I think it is both too early and too late to be worrying about "re-branding"--to borrow a phrase from the recent political stage! So, for now, I say, "burn, baby burn" :)

Pete Mandik

Surely the burning armchair's most pernicious effects will be the damage it does to the already strained relations between philosophers and upholsterers.

Eddy Nahmias

Surely we all come up with our best experiments while resting in our armchairs.

And is it just me or is the X-phi (there I said it) community one of the most collegial groups around?



I hate you. There, I said it...


Josh May

I think the comments here illustrate what a friendly and lighthearted bunch the X-phi community is! As Eddy points out, it's an extremely collegial community---both to those within it and outside of it. It's certainly a shame some aren't aware of that, whether because of things like the burning armchair or otherwise!

Anne Jacobson

Surely it is no surprise that people happy to comment on this site are happy with the image. It would be interesting to see what would happen with a similar query on Leiter's site, for example.

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3QD Prize 2012: Wesley Buckwalter