Still on the topic of progress and methodology in philosophy, Dennett has a new book titled Intuition Pumps and Other Tools for Thinking. There is an interesting conversation about the book here, which begins with an excerpt on intuition pumps from Brockman’s The Third Culture: Beyond the Scientific Revolution (1995). Dennett says something about intuition pumps that I think is worth discussing. Dennett writes:
If you look at the history of philosophy, you see that all the great and influential stuff has been technically full of holes but utterly memorable and vivid. They are what I call "intuition pumps" — lovely thought experiments. Like Plato's cave, and Descartes's evil demon, and Hobbes' vision of the state of nature and the social contract, and even Kant's idea of the categorical imperative. I don't know of any philosopher who thinks any one of those is a logically sound argument for anything. But they're wonderful imagination grabbers, jungle gyms for the imagination. They structure the way you think about a problem. These are the real legacy of the history of philosophy. A lot of philosophers have forgotten that, but I like to make intuition pumps.
I coined the term "intuition pump," and its first use was derogatory. I applied it to John Searle's "Chinese room," which I said was not a proper argument but just an intuition pump. I went on to say that intuition pumps are fine if they're used correctly, but they can also be misused. They're not arguments, they're stories. Instead of having a conclusion, they pump an intuition. They get you to say "Aha! Oh, I get it!"
What philosophers have forgotten, I take it, is that intuition pumps are not arguments. Intuition pumps are useful for getting the imagination juices flowing. But they do not provide support for claims. Perhaps another way to make the same point is this: intuition pumps can be a useful tool in the context of discovery, where creativity and imagination are important, but not in the context of justification. Do you agree?