June 5 – Current Debates

Slides: http://www.stanford.edu/class/symsys130/SymSys130-6-5-2013.ppt.pdf.

  • Many philosophers believe that data from naive survey-takers cannot really inform, and should not be used as a standard for, philosophical theories such as Gettier’s theory of the justification of knowledge. See a recent paper on tests of the Gettier intuitions.
  • Scientific theories generally need to be tethered to ground truths such as data or logical principles that have wide acceptance. What can tether a philosophical theory?
  • Negative results in psychology often arise from initial attempts to test a hypothesis, which attempts are not performed correctly, at least from the point of view of the experimenter. But the perspective of Simmons et al. from the last session’s reading is that these prior experiments constitute flexibility in data gathering and analysis that should be disclosed by the researchers so that reviewers can asses the likelihood that later found effects are not spurious.
  • For a critique of design by usability testing, see the work of Jared Spool.

Readings (with discussion led by Tom Wasow):

  • Thomas Wasow and Jennifer Arnold, “Intuitions in Linguistic Argumentation”, Lingua 115(11):1481-1496, 2005
    • Tom and Jennifer end their paper by contrasting linguistics to physics and lamenting the fact that experiments relevant to generative grammar have little effect on generative grammar theorists. When I asked Tom whether he thought a more explicit division of labor would be appropriate, he demurred, but did say that twenty years ago, when psychologists and linguists got together to discuss language, psychologists were mostly just interested in the data and linguists were mostly just interested in the theory. That is beginning to change, thanks partly to more curricula that emphasize multiple methods.
  • Jon Sprouse and Diogo Almeida, “The empirical status of data in syntax: A reply to Gibson and Fedorenko”, Language and Cognitive Processes 28(3):222-228
    • From the discussion: the competenceperformance distinction is useful, but quantitative judgment data are relevant to both, not just to performance, in Tom’s view.
  • Edward Gibson , Steven T. Piantadosi and Evelina Fedorenko,
    “Quantitative methods in syntax/semantics research: A response to Sprouse and Almeida”, Language and Cognitive Processes, 28(3):229-240, 2013
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