Who is Afraid of Commitment? On the Relation of Scientific Evidence and Conceptual Theory

Steffen Steinert*, Joachim Lipski

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

    3 Citations (Scopus)


    Can scientific evidence prompt us to revise philosophical theories or folk theoretical accounts of phenomena of the mind? We will argue that it can—but only under the condition that they make a so-called ‘ontological commitment’ to something that is actually subject to empirical inquiry. In other words, scientific evidence pertaining to neuroanatomical structure or causal processes only has a refuting effect if philosophical theories and folk notions subscribe to either account. We will illustrate the importance of ‘ontological commitment’ with the ‘neuroanatomical approach’ to amusement as proposed in a recent paper by Palencik (Dialogue 46(3):419–434, 2007). We will show that the scientific evidence presented in said neuroanatomical approach has no bearing on the conceptual issues, in that the philosophical theories and folk distinction that are criticized do not subscribe to any account of the underlying neuroanatomical structure or causal processes. Our suggestions in this paper are not limited to philosophical accounts of humor but apply to the relationship of philosophy, common sense and science in general.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)477-500
    Number of pages24
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 2018


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