I doubt this is unique to (experimental) philosophy.
Eric Schwitzgebel posts on a special application of a method that he and Russ Hurlburt developed to elicit “a woman’s . . . experience as she went about her normal day wearing a random beeper.” (As if “wearing a random beeper” is part of anyone’s normal day.) In this special application, they wanted to know what members of the audience were thinking while listening scholarly presentations. Here are audience responses captured during a talk they gave at a recent American Philosophical Association meeting.
(1.) Thinking that he should put his cell phone away (probably not formulated either in words or imagery); visual experience of cell phone and whiteboard.
(2.) Scratching an itch, noticing how it feels; having a visual experience of a book.
(3.) Feeling like he’s about to fade into a sweet daydream but no sense of its content yet; “fading” visual experience of the speaker.
(4.) Feeling confused; listening to speaker and reading along on handout, taking in the meaning. [I’m counting this as an instance of thinking about the talk.]
(5.) Visual imagery of the “macaroni orange” of a recently seen flyer; skanky taste of coffee; fantasizing about biting an apple instead of tasting coffee; feeling need to go to bathroom; hearing the speaker’s sentence. The macaroni orange was the most prominent part of her experience.
(6.) Reading abstract for next talk; hearing an “echo” of the speaker’s last sentence; fighting a feeling of tiredness; maybe feeling tingling on tooth from permanent retainer.
Both the bracketed clause in (4.) and the clause in parentheses in (1.) is from Schwitzgebel’s post. As a motivation to get you to check out the whole post at Experimental Philosophy you might be interested in what Schwitzgebel thinks about “sex thoughts.”
As he correctly asks,
Where is the cooking up of objections, the thinking through of consequences, the feeling of understanding the meaning of what is being said, the finding of connections to other people’s work? In only one of these samples was taking in the meaning of the talk the foremost part of the experience.
What are you thinking about when you listen to a learned paper? What do you think your audience is thinking about when you give one?
Via Leiter Reports: A Philosophy Blog