Why ‘Appeals to Intuitions’ might not be so bad

  • D Spurrett


There has been lively recent debate over the value of appeals to intuitions in philosophy. Some, especially ‘experimental philosophers’, have argued that such appeals can carry little or no evidential weight, and that standard analytic philosophy is consequently methodologically bankrupt. Various
defences of intuitions, and analytic philosophy, have also been offered. In this paper I review the case against intuitions, in particular the claims that intuitions vary with culture, and are built by natural selection, and argue that much of their force depends on assuming that the required sense of intuition is of a kind of human universal. In opposition to this view I argue that there is reason to regard intuitions of professional philosophers as parochial developmental achievements (so that cultural variation among non-professionals is irrelevant) and also the product of a training process that warrants ascribing some evidential weight to them. The argument made here is not anti-naturalistic, nor does it grant intuitions any special or trumping evidential status. Unlike some defences of analytic philosophy it does not depend on denying that philosophers appeal to intuitions at all.

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eISSN: 0258-0136