Posts Tagged ‘experimental philosophy’

On the Role of Intuitions in Philosophy

November 2, 2007

I have to confess that I do not know (in any sense of the term) what the role of intuitions are in philosophy. In the realm of epistemology, the recent work of Michael Bishop and J.D. Trout has called into question the value of some of those intuitions philosophers so dearly treasure. I suppose I’m actually willing to say that intuitions matter more in certain branches of philosophy (epistemology) than in others (say, ethics), while still maintaining that, all things considered, intuitions count for very little. On the practical side: we obviously employ our (philosophical) intuitions regularly as a kind of first wave of criticism for a view. At the very least, I think that most philosophers take intuitions to provide prima facie evidence for accepting or rejecting a given view.

So here is a case from a paper entitled “A Defense of the Use of Intuitions in Philosophy,” available on Ernie Sosa’s web site.
I believe it comes from some of the studies cited by Weinberg, Nichols, and Stich’s “Normativity and Epistemic Intuitions”:

It’s clear that smoking cigarettes increases the likelihood of getting cancer. However, there is now a great deal of evidence that just using nicotine by itself without smoking (for instance, by taking a nicotine pill), does not increase the likelihood of getting cancer. Jim knows about this evidence and as a result, he believes that using nicotine does not increase the likelihood of getting cancer. It is possible that the tobacco companies dishonestly made up and publicized this evidence that using nicotine does not increase the likelihood of cancer, and that the evidence is really false and misleading. Now, the tobacco companies did not actually make up this evidence, but Jim is not aware of this fact. Does Jim really know that using nicotine doesn’t increase the likelihood of getting cancer, or does he only believe it?


Thoughts? Intuitions? Knowledges?