In this article at the Daily Nous (click on screenshot below), a survey of a large group of philosophers revealed what they believe in a number of areas. I put the data for the questions and answers below, but if the figures are too small, click on the chart, wait a tick, and then click it again to make it big. (Alternatively, just drag the chart onto your desktop.)
From the Daily Nous page:
Results from the 2020 PhilPapers survey, with responses from nearly 1,800 philosophers (mainly from North America, Europe, and Australasia), to questions on a variety of philosophical subjects and problems, have now been published.
Surveys like this can play at least three roles within philosophy. First, today’s sociology is tomorrow’s history, and these results
may be of some use to future historians of philosophy. Second, philosophers often appeal to sociological claims about the distributions of views among philosophers, for example in justifying which views should be taken seriously, and it makes sense for these claims to be well-grounded. Third, if philosophy has any tendency to converge to the truth, then philosophers’ views might provide some guidance about the truth of philosophical views. It is not clear whether philosophy tends to converge to the truth, so we don’t make the third claim about guidance, but surveys can clearly play the first two roles in philosophical practice.
The survey asked 40 “main” questions and 60 “additional” questions.
Here are the results of the main questions:
JAC: “Inclusive” means those philosophers that checked multiple options of what they believed in, while “exclusive” includes data only from those who checked only one box. I’ll use the “inclusive data”, though the figures for that can add up to more than 100%.
Because I’m not a philosopher, I can’t comment on everything, or even know what everything means, so below the chart I’ll comment on just a few items I know about.
48% of philosophers think it’s okay to eat meat, while about 45% think it’s wrong and prefer to be vegans or vegetarians. I don’t know what “other” is. Many predict that in the future, “omnivorism” will be seen as immoral.
The trolley problem. Five people on one track, one on the side track. The train is headed towards the five. Do you throw the switch, putting the train on the track that will kill only one person?
Almost two-thirds say “switch”, killing one person instead of five. That seems to be the sensible (as well as utilitarian) solution. But 13.3% favor killing all five. And what is “other”?
The Fat Man trolley problem. Here there’s no switch to throw, but you’re asked whether you’ll throw a fat man off a bridge over the trolley, stopping the train but killing the fat guy. The net result is the same if you heave Mr. Big versus throwing the switch, but this requires that you do something more intimate, in effect killing someone with your own hands (of course throwing the switch does that more indirectly).
Most philosophers are compatibilists, ergo defining “free will” differently from how most people (and nearly all religionists) see it. This figure has increased since the last survey. Poor misguided philosophers. . .
Why didn’t they ask about determinism? Well, they sort of did (see below).
Gender: They didn’t ask about sex (e.g. biological sex) but gender.
The typical use of “gender” is “how somebody identifies”, which to me means it’s either psychological or social, and “social” is what most philosophers think. I’m not sure about those 29% who think gender is biological when I think it’s defined as a sexual role.
Belief in God:
Uh oh: 18.09% of philosophers believe in a theistic (interactive) god, so nearly one out of five is either deluded or doesn’t follow the evidence. But 2/3 of “thinkers” are atheists, so that should give you some consolation.
Meaning of life:
Well, it’s both subjective (you make your own meaning) or “nonexistent” (meaning that you don’t believe in a “meaning of life”). Either answer seems sensible to me, but 32.1% of philosophers think that there is indeed an objective meaning of life. These far outnumber the theists, who usually say that the meaning involves God, so why don’t they tell us what the objective meaning of life is? After all, how do they know there is one without discerning it?
Oops, only slightly more than half of philosophers are physicalists (i.e., believe that there’s nothing other than the physical), while the rest are, apparently, not very scientific!
We have some philosophy mavens/experts here, so feel free to comment on the answers to other questions.