Putting the trolley in order: Experimental philosophy and the loop case

S. Matthew Liao, Alex Wiegmann, Joshua Alexander, Gerard Vong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In recent years, a number of philosophers have conducted empirical studies that survey people's intuitions about various subject matters in philosophy. Some have found that intuitions vary accordingly to seemingly irrelevant facts: facts about who is considering the hypothetical case, the presence or absence of certain kinds of content, or the context in which the hypothetical case is being considered. Our research applies this experimental philosophical methodology to Judith Jarvis Thomson's famous Loop Case, which she used to call into question the validity of the intuitively plausible Doctrine of Double Effect. We found that intuitions about the Loop Case vary according to the context in which the case is considered. We contend that this undermines the supposed evidential status of intuitions about the Loop Case. We conclude by considering the implications of our findings for philosophers who rely on the Loop Case to make philosophical arguments and for philosophers who use intuitions in general.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)661-671
Number of pages11
JournalPhilosophical Psychology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2012


  • Doctrine of Double Effect
  • Experimental Philosophy
  • Frances Kamm
  • Intuitions
  • Judith Jarvis Thompson
  • Trolley Cases

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Philosophy


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