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The armchair and the trolley: an argument for experimental ethics

Overview of attention for article published in Philosophical Studies, August 2011
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About this Attention Score

  • In the top 25% of all research outputs scored by Altmetric
  • Good Attention Score compared to outputs of the same age (79th percentile)
  • Above-average Attention Score compared to outputs of the same age and source (60th percentile)

Mentioned by

10 tweeters


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Readers on

50 Mendeley
1 CiteULike
The armchair and the trolley: an argument for experimental ethics
Published in
Philosophical Studies, August 2011
DOI 10.1007/s11098-011-9775-5
Pubmed ID

Guy Kahane


Ethical theory often starts with our intuitions about particular cases and tries to uncover the principles that are implicit in them; work on the 'trolley problem' is a paradigmatic example of this approach. But ethicists are no longer the only ones chasing trolleys. In recent years, psychologists and neuroscientists have also turned to study our moral intuitions and what underlies them. The relation between these two inquiries, which investigate similar examples and intuitions, and sometimes produce parallel results, is puzzling. Does it matter to ethics whether its armchair conclusions match the psychologists' findings? I argue that reflection on this question exposes psychological presuppositions implicit in armchair ethical theorising. When these presuppositions are made explicit, it becomes clear that empirical evidence can (and should) play a positive role in ethical theorising. Unlike recent assaults on the armchair, the argument I develop is not driven by a naturalist agenda, or meant to cast doubt on the reliability of our moral intuitions; on the contrary, it is even compatible with non-naturalism, and takes the reliability of intuition as its premise. The argument is rather that if our moral intuitions are reliable, then psychological evidence should play a surprisingly significant role in the justification of moral principles.

Twitter Demographics

The data shown below were collected from the profiles of 10 tweeters who shared this research output. Click here to find out more about how the information was compiled.

Mendeley readers

The data shown below were compiled from readership statistics for 50 Mendeley readers of this research output. Click here to see the associated Mendeley record.

Geographical breakdown

Country Count As %
Germany 1 2%
Israel 1 2%
United Kingdom 1 2%
Brazil 1 2%
Poland 1 2%
United States 1 2%
Sweden 1 2%
Netherlands 1 2%
Unknown 42 84%

Demographic breakdown

Readers by professional status Count As %
Student > Ph. D. Student 12 24%
Researcher 10 20%
Student > Master 10 20%
Professor > Associate Professor 5 10%
Student > Postgraduate 5 10%
Other 8 16%
Readers by discipline Count As %
Philosophy 19 38%
Psychology 15 30%
Social Sciences 3 6%
Agricultural and Biological Sciences 2 4%
Computer Science 2 4%
Other 9 18%

Attention Score in Context

This research output has an Altmetric Attention Score of 6. This is our high-level measure of the quality and quantity of online attention that it has received. This Attention Score, as well as the ranking and number of research outputs shown below, was calculated when the research output was last mentioned on 01 October 2017.
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Outputs of similar age
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Outputs of similar age from Philosophical Studies
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Altmetric has tracked 13,401,480 research outputs across all sources so far. Compared to these this one has done well and is in the 77th percentile: it's in the top 25% of all research outputs ever tracked by Altmetric.
So far Altmetric has tracked 785 research outputs from this source. They receive a mean Attention Score of 2.2. This one has done particularly well, scoring higher than 91% of its peers.
Older research outputs will score higher simply because they've had more time to accumulate mentions. To account for age we can compare this Altmetric Attention Score to the 121,269 tracked outputs that were published within six weeks on either side of this one in any source. This one has done well, scoring higher than 79% of its contemporaries.
We're also able to compare this research output to 5 others from the same source and published within six weeks on either side of this one. This one has scored higher than 3 of them.