I know that there is snow outside; this knowledge is based in part on my visual experience. When I look out the window, I have experiences that partially constitute seeing snow. I also know that squares have four sides. Arguably, this knowledge is independent of experience, depending only on my conceptual competence, or rational capacities, or something like that. My knowledge that squares have four sides is not derived from experience, the way that my knowledge that there is snow outside is.
According to certain prominent rationalist views, what explains this difference is that my knowledge about squares, unlike my knowledge of snow, is based not on perception but on intuition. I have the intuition that p, and intuitions are a source of evidence, and so now I have justification for believing that p. It's hard for me to see how, on a view like this, the relevant knowledge comes out independent of experience. For intuitions are experiences, every bit as much as perceptual experiences are. Indeed, some rationalists characterize intuitions phenomenologically: intuitions feel a certain way, and having that sort of feeling provides justification for intuitive beliefs.
On this sort of view, intuitions look to be just another kind of way of experiencing the world. One way that we experience the world is by seeing things; another is by intuiting things. You can call things learned that latter way a priori if you want to, but this just doesn't look to me like belief independent from experience. On the contrary, on this sort of a view, it looks like the a priori beliefs are those that are based on a certain kind of experience: the intuitions.
Not sure if this is relevant, but it seems to me that something similar can be said about they view of an empiricist like Ayer. He says that my knowledge that squares have four sides is dependent only on my understanding of the words involved ('square', 'four', 'side', etc.). But here it is also difficult to understand how this knowledge is independent of experience since my understanding the meaning of the relevant terms is derived from experiences of those terms.ReplyDelete
Seems reasonable to me. To add:ReplyDelete
I think that there are a lot of cases that we would say there was belief formation on the basis of intuition such that, were we to learn that a certain causal story was true - we'd say it was perception.
C onsider a case of someone coming to form a moral belief on the basis of a moral intuition about a particular act token that they observe. It just seems to them that the burning of the cat is wrong.
Suppose there really are moral properties that cause us to have inclinations to believe moral propositions, perhaps via a feeling of disgust or whatever...
If it really turned out that this was how the belief was formed, it seems to me that this would obviously be a case of experience.
The only reason I think we call it intuition (as opposed to perception/experience) is that we are not sure what the source of the inclination is.
So why talk about this:
OPTION ONE: Someone arguing against you might say....that's how we demarcate experience from intuition...by whether or not a certain background causal story is true such that the phenomenal sensations are caused by the facts in the appropriate way...
OPTION TWO: We say that the causal story is actually not relevant to whether or not it's an experience. If it's not relevant, then the distinction between an intuition and an experience doesn't make much sense to me either.
So it seems to me like it might be an open question in any case of intuition something very much like perception is occuring (because it's open question whether or not there is a causal story like the one I just told is true).
(p.s. You should think about adding the Subscribe to Comments by email plugin that let's users check a box and get notified by email about new comments from a particular post they've commented on)
I would think that someone like BonJour could agree with all that. If by "experience" we don't mean something like "sensory/perceptual experience", but instead something broad enough to include the phenomenology of intuition, then a rationalist of this stripe just isn't going to think it's a good idea to cash out apriority in terms of "independence from experience" so understood.ReplyDelete