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Our panel of 90 professional philosophers has responded to

Question of the day

I suspect, and this is confirmed by experience, that professional philosophers if anything change their minds somewhat less than other people. Your early experience with philosophy is that you change your mind all the time. As a learner, every new paper or book seems to have an unassailable and persuasive argument, and you feel yourself pushed all over the place in your views (at least on topics where you are malleable because you haven't already thought much about them - which connects to my point below).

But professional philosophers have had the opportunity to read, absorb, and evaluate many many points of views and accompanying arguments. If they have got that far they have probably formed, or reinforced, their own views on very many topics, and those views are correspondingly harder to alter from outside. It is surprisingly difficult to get a philosopher to change his or her mind. That's not because they are especially stubborn (though some are; and also not to be underestimated is the factor that many philosophers have a professional stake in preserving, or being seen to preserve, the view with which they are associated). It is rather because they have very likely already heard arguments similar to the one you are now trying to use to change their mind, and have already made up their mind as to why that argument does not budge them. Even a new argument has to run up against the whole established and carefully built worldview in the philosopher's mind, and so has that much more to do to cause a change in opinion.

Outside of their speciality, say in more everyday topics like politics, the philosophical skillset I think also tends to make philosophers less likely to shift opinion. Speaking just for myself, I can say for sure that the really big changes in various parts of my worldview happened, for the most part, prior to becoming a professional philosopher.

That said, and you can be sure that other philosophers with their own equally set ideas will disagree with all I've just said, there are notable examples of philosophers changing their minds. One example that occurs to me is Frank Jackson, who in 1982 devised the famous knowledge argument to show that physicalism is false - the idea that we and the world around us consist of nothing but matter as described by physics. This anti-physicalist argument became very influential. But Jackson became persuaded of physicalism's truth in the 1990's, and now spends much of his time explaining why in his view his original argument was mistaken. I think we would all like to think that if good reasons are presented to us we will change our minds.