Methods and approaches to theories of philosophical intuitions
Kuntz, Joseph Robert
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This thesis is about the arguments and the methods that can sustain the epistemic support that comes from intuitions regarding hypothetical cases vis-à-vis theories of intuition. In the past twenty years, philosophical intuitions have received new attention, spurred by fashionable experimental philosophy that empirically tests philosophers’ intuition-engendering hypothetical cases with experimental methods. The results purportedly show that intuitions are unreliable, subject to demographic variation, and error-prone. In response, philosophers have presented various theories of philosophical intuition and explanations of how intuitions are situated in the justificatory apparatus of philosophical methodology. Three types of theories prevail in the literature, each a plausible option for the explanatory sustenance of intuitions’ epistemic efficacy. Selfevidence theories depend on the understanding of the intuited proposition. Intellectual seemings theories depend on the content of the intuited proposition. Judgment theories depend on our normal capacities for making judgments. Judgment theories divide further into disposition-to-believe theories and capacity theories. I argue that, beyond objections and unique epistemic burdens that each theory faces regarding the methodologies underpinning their conception and defense, no one theory of intuition can be reasonably accepted over the others. The centrality of intuitions’ use in philosophical methodology and in philosophers’ ways of thinking and reasoning, giving an argument that supports intuitions as conferrers of epistemic status, which does not itself appeal to intuitions, is a precarious endeavor. I consider various methods to avoid engaging question-begging premises and epistemic circularity. However, none are successful when the theory at hand is characteristically a priori and countenances only intuitions that confer epistemic status. In response to the ill-fated caricature of philosophical intuitions epistemic-statusconferrers, I present my own survey evidence concerning philosophers’ conception of intuition-use in philosophical method. Surprisingly, professional philosophers are more inclined to think that intuitions operate in the context of discovery more so than they are inclined to think that intuitions operate in the context of justification. The upshot of these survey results motivates my preferred account philosophical intuitions wherein philosophical intuitions are bifurcated into epistemic (justificatory intuitions) and epistemically-related (intuitions of discovery) roles. In the light of the objections I pose regarding the proper grounding of intuitions, revising the standard conception of philosophical intuitions requires two sorts of moves in the debate. First, one must offer a proviso for sources of justification that do not epistemically depend on intuitions for the ability to confer epistemic status. This allows one to justify a theory of intuition without appeal to intuition or epistemic regress. Second, one must give an explanation for and build on the recognition that intuitions are bifurcated into justificatory and discovery roles. The added clarity of filling out the nature of bifurcation allows for a more accurate characterisation of philosophical intuitions in the methods of philosophy. Furthermore, that intuitions operate in discovery roles offers an explanation for philosophical innovation and progress.