Thursday, October 06, 2011

Williamson on Intuitions

In general, the objection "That's only an intuition" is ill-posed in the same way as the objection "That's only a judgment". Some judgments are indeed objectionable, but the mere fact that a proposition is judged is not even a prima facie reason for doubting it.

-- Timothy Williamson, The Philosophy of Philosophy, p.220.


  1. But the objections 'that's only an intuition' and 'that's only a judgement' aren't analogous. Intuition is a means of coming to a judgement, not another cognitive operation parallel to judging. And we have good reason to think that it's an unreliable means.

  2. maybe it's a bit more plausible in the context of the chapter, but this quote seems pretty ridiculous on the face of it. an intuition can simply never serve as a premise in an argument unless you accept an epistemic given. (i'm drawing the sharp distinction between endorsing a proposition because it is intuited and endorsing a proposition based on it figuring into an explanation...even if a very bad methodology is employed.)

    further, in the case of perceptual judgement we can explain the normal reliability or systematic unreliability of the (perceptual) mechanism. the typical move, for example, might appeal to design by natural selection. i'm aware of no such explanation for our having of, say, modal intuitions. however, there's no reason to think all appeals to intuitions should be treated with the same degree of hostility. i happen to have little patience for the use of intuitions in metaphysics, but there may be an interesting difference in support of their careful use in ethics.


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