Friday, January 11, 2013

Who Needs Intuitions? Two Experimentalist Critiques

I've just finished what I hope is nearly the final set of revisions on a paper on intuitions, philosophical methodology, and experimental philosophy. This is my oldest paper that I haven't given up on; it derives from material that was in my Ph.D. thesis in 2008. If anybody wants to read it, comments are very welcome. (I'm due to submit it by the end of the month, so comments are especially helpful if they're before then.)

Who Needs Intuitions? Two Experimentalist Critiques
Abstract. A number of philosophers have recently suggested that the role of intuitions in the epistemology of armchair philosophy has been exaggerated. This suggestion is rehearsed and endorsed. Many of these philosophers take this observation to undermine the experimentalist critiques of armchair philosophical methodology that have arisen in recent years. The dialectical situation here, I suggest, is more complex than it appears. I will argue that the so-called ‘experimentalist critique’ really comprises two very different kinds of challenges to armchair methodology. One, which I call the ‘defeater critique’, does not depend on any particular view about the philosophical significance of intuitions, even though its proponents often emphasize the language of intuition. The other, however, which I call the ‘arbitrariness critique’—prominent in earlier experimentalist work, especially that of Stephen Stich—does depend on a central role for intuitions. I survey some attempts to motivate this critique without reliance on assumptions about the centrality of intuitions, and find them unconvincing. So rejecting the centrality of intuitions is a sufficient response to the arbitrariness critique, even though it is orthogonal to the defeater critique.

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