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Rob Gressis

I've wondered about this question for a few years now, but I also have worries about the question itself. So, the form in which I've wondered it is: is it the case that the great philosophers of the past are really that great at philosophy, or are they just lucky? That is, how could we be sure that, say, Kant was a better philosopher than David Lewis, or even than an average philosopher at a top university?

Here's some reasons to think that Kant is inferior to Lewis or an average philosopher at a top university:
(1) Almost no one accepts any of Kant's major metaphysical or epistemological principles (so, most philosophers think that what he writes is false);
(2) there's massive disagreement about what Kant claims (so, most philosophers think he's not clear); and
(3) few philosophers think he offers good arguments for his conclusions (so, he's not rigorous).

So, Kant is wrong, obscure, and careless. Those are pretty big philosophical vices!

That said, he certainly received a lot of attention in his day; we still pore over his works over 200 years later; and he was undeniably creative.

Now, I must point out that most philosophers don't agree with Lewis's major conclusion ("extreme" modal realism), so I suppose most of us would say he's wrong in an important way. In addition, while Lewis is undeniably rigorous, who's to say that philosophers in 200 years -- if there are any such beings -- will think he's rigorous by their standards? Finally, it wouldn't shock me if philosophers in 200 years, assuming they still talked about Lewis, disagreed vehemently about what he believed. (Doing research about Hume's Dialogues I was shocked to learn how much disagreement there was over what Hume's point is, and what moves he makes, in that work.)

There's a lot more to talk about, but I'll try to keep this already long comment from being any longer.

Marcus Arvan

Hi Rob: interesting comment! Here are some of my thoughts.

I'm inclined to agree with you that Kant *is* obscure, careless, and in many cases wrong (though I myself think he was fundamentally right about morality, even if he never worked out the Categorical Imperative's implications very well -- this is something I hope to make a compelling case for in the years to come). However, although I agree with you on this, I *disagree* with your claim that they are philosophical vices. I only think carelessness, obscurity, and wrongness are vices in philosophers *without* vision. In philosophers *with* vision, they are a necessary evil (it's neigh *impossible* to defend a truly revolutionary idea with great rigor. If it were possible, more people would do it).

Anyway, as I've written before in several posts, I believe 20th (and now 21st) century academic philosophy's obsession with rigor is profoundly misguided. Actually, that's not quite right. I'm with Kuhn in that I think there's a *place* for rigor as a part of "normal science." The purpose of rigor is to examine great ideas (like Kant's, Plato's, Aristotle's) *carefully*, to see whether/how they stand up to scrutiny.

What I also think, though, is that Kuhn is right that rigor is overly emphasized (and romanticized) in periods of normal science (which I think philosophy is arguably in). Rigor has its virtues, but also has its vices. True creativity, I think, typically goes hand in hand with *not* obeying dominant standards for what "counts" as a good, rigorous argument.

Anyway, I don't want my comment to get too long, either -- so I'll leave it at this: I think rigor is an intellectual virtue for "normal scientists", but not for "revolutionaries". Revolutionary thinking has epistemic virtues, and it is fundamentally in tension with the demands of rigor (again, why? Because in a *rigorous* argument one only argues from premises one's audience is likely to accept, whereas in revolutionary thought one attempts to change the very premises that people are apt to find "intuitive" to begin with...and in such a profound way that the revolutionary thinker *him/herself* hasn't figured out many of the relevant details/pitfalls, etc., because the ideas are so new and foreign).

Finally, for amusement's sake, I guess I'll end with this: I do hope people are still talking about modal realism in 200 years. Why? Because I'm a modal realist. ;)

Nick Smyth

Well, I can only speak for my impression of the teensy little insignificant sub-discipline in which I work (ethics... and yes, that's gentle sarcasm...) but it is my impression that the 1950-1999 period saw an explosion of interesting and diverse ways of thinking about ethics. The revival of Aristotle, the Rawlsian/neo-Kantian sphere, the various work on indirect consequentialism, Williams' invention of anti-theory, the Ethics of Care movement and a renewed focus on Hume as a positive ethicist... I could go on and on. The lesson is that a Golden Age does not have to be ushered in by game-changing luminaries, rather, the game may be changed via collective effort.

Marcus Arvan

Hi Nick: I take your point very well. The more that I think about the "golden/dark" age question, the more torn I become -- and the more I think it may be something of a false dilemma.

On the one hand, I tend to find Eric Schwitzgebel's remarks persuasive that there has been a "winnowing of the greats" of late -- that the increasing professionalization of philosophy has led to progressively fewer "great" thinkers on the order of Kant, etc. For my part, I don't think this is too surprising as I think that in general, the more professionalized a given discipline becomes, the more likely people are to fall into conventional ways of thinking (I don't think this is just true in philosophy, but in many areas of life, including art).

So, in *one* respect, I don't think 1950-1999 was a Golden Age. But perhaps in *other* respects it was: in terms of the development of rigor, an explosion of new views, etc.

Part of me finds this "broader perspective" more attractive: that there may be different respects in which something can or cannot be a "golden age." At the same time, I still tend to be on the pessimistic side. Although there was (as you state) an explosion of new views in ethics during 1950-1999, I wonder how many of those views will "stand the test of time" -- which, at least in a broad historical sense, tends to be how people judge "golden ages" (or so I think).

Anyway, I'm not sure. Great comment, though!


I think of the era we are still in and which started sometime after WWII and before 1970 (but might vary depending upon sub-specialty) as the third great Scholastic Era (the first being the Hellenistic and the second the medieval). There are important differences in our form of scholasticisms but for the most part there is an elevation of doctrinal consistency over innovation (regular science rather than paradigm changing science). For the most part I think we have seen a lot of first-rate-second-rate philosophers (something someone said about Henry of Harclay who might be an analogue to many of our big-name philosophers these days.

On the other hand, Derrida, Foucault, (all the philosophers who in some ways move into the space created by Heidegger's late essays) seem to me to have more lasting effect on the *Geist* than most of our anglo-philosophers. I think when the story of philosophy is told 100 years from now Derrida et al will be seen to have had more influence (by influencing thinking outside of disciplinary confines) than most anglo-philosophy of the era (with a few exceptions e.g., Rawls, Quine, perhaps).

But just pick up anything metaethics and it's pretty hard not to see the scholasticism. But perhaps that's not true in all sub-disciplines. And obviously I'd have to do some more work to show how the era deserves to be called scholastic without the same sort of institutional sub-structures--but I suspect a more than plausible case could be made.

Rob Gressis

Hi Marcus,

That carelessness, obscurity, and wrongness are not philosophical vices--at least, when combined with successful revolutionary thinking--could very well be true. That said, they're still lamentable, because it does seem possible to combine rigor with revolutionary creativity. There aren't many examples, but here are perhaps a few: Aristotle, Aquinas, Leibniz, Spinoza, Hume. Now, arguably, you can say that Aquinas, Spinoza, and Leibniz are just working out paradigms, and so are brilliant normal philosophers. And one might say the same of Hume: he was just working out the empiricist paradigm. But I think Aristotle at least shows the combination is possible; and if Aristotle's the only example, maybe that would support a claim (which no one on this thread has made) that he's the greatest philosopher of all time.

One of the other issues this brings up is how important creativity is for being a historically important philosopher. Could it be that philosophers value creativity over rigor, at least when we're talking about massive creativity as compared to massive rigor? If so, that would be an interesting result! Its suggests to me some possibilities:

(1) philosophers value originality more than truth (assuming that rigor is a better guide to truth than creativity);
(2) philosophers value truth, but think that originality is a better guide to it than rigor (or don't think that either one has much to do with truth);
(3) philosophers don't value creativity over rigor; instead, these figures' popularity is basically just dumb luck. Adam Ferguson could just as easily have emerged as a greater philosopher than Hume, and Fichte or Moses Mendelssohn could just as easily have turned out to be more important than Kant.

What do you think?

Marcus Arvan

Hi Rob: I wrote the longest response to you out on my iPhone and it got lost in cyberspace. :( So I guess I'll rewrite a shorter version.

You make a bunch of good points, and ask very good questions. Here are some of my thoughts.

I have no idea what philosophers value, nor do I much care. ;) I know what *I* think, though -- and it's this: I think we all recognize that the "greats" in history had different philosophical virtues and vices. There are many ways to do good or great philosophy. As far as I'm concerned, all of the figures you mentioned (well, except Adam Ferguson -- sorry Adam!) were great in the own way.

But, if we're asking what the *best* combination is -- the optimal set of philosophical virtues/vices -- I think we have to make a case in favor of some particular figure as "the best ever"...as the apex of what a human being has ever been able to accomplish as a philosopher. Whatever qualities *that* person has will help us determine what is and isn't "lamentable."

I know I'll get flack for it -- and I could go on making a case all day (you've been warned!) -- but for my money Kant is the best philosopher who's ever lived, and Einstein the single best natural scientist who's ever lived (though I also have the utmost admiration for Marie Curie!).

The basic reason why I think Kant and Einstein were "the best ever" is simple: I think they both had *vision* -- or profoundly transformative insights into the way the world is -- have never been even closely parallelled by anyone else.

It's one thing to, as Aristotle and Hume did, develop intricate natural philosophies of the world. It is another thing entirely to jump beyond that and:

(A) Do what Kant did in the First Critique (which I can't even begin to express the brilliance of).

(B) Do what he did in the Second Critique (namely, defend a theory of practical freedom that, for my part, I think may well be true and in any case more fascinating than any other account of freedom I've ever been exposed to), and

(C) Do what he did in the Groundwork (essentially postulate, investigate, and "discover" an entirely new form of normativity -- categorical normativity -- never "seen" by anyone before him).

I just don't see any series of radical insights like this from anyone else -- except for perhaps Leibniz and his monadology (which, with all due respect, is as absolutely *insane* as it is brilliant). But that's just me.

My estimations of Einstein are similar. There have been far better mathematicians (too many!), far more systematic scientists (Newton) -- but there has just never been anyone who has ever taken the kind of imaginative leaps he did in arriving at the theories of relativity and foundations of quantum mechanics.

So -- and I'm sure many will think I'm mad for all this -- when I look at what I take to be the absolute pinnacle of philosophy (Kant) and science (Einstein), I don't see figures who had rigor *and* originality in the highest order. I see "insight" primarily. As far as I'm concerned, Kant's arguments are mostly a mess -- but they're *almost* right: their insight is right. And similarly for Einstein: he was such a maverick (a "lazy dog") that he never really spent much time getting great and math...and it was precisely this that enabled him to see the world in an intuitive new way (he came up with the theory of relativity with essentially high-grade high school math on the basis of intuitive thought-experiments). I would argue, in fact, that it was precisely his greater concern with rigor later in life -- when he really went off into hard-core mathematics -- that he *lost* his intuitive feel for the natural world: which is what had made him so great.

At the end of the day, then, that is what I believe. There are those -- like Aristotle -- with both creativity and rigor. I still think Kant was better because he had better insight.

Of course, I realize many, many will see things very differently. I don't purport to "know the truth" about who's best. I just see things as I see 'em.

Let the flame wars begin. ;)

Michel X.

Marcus (if I may),

I wonder if the question might not actually be ill-formed. Perhaps we should be asking about movements and sub-fields rather than individual figures. There was actually a post on TSM on this very topic (viz., y no moar Kant-figures?) a year ago: http://schwitzsplinters.blogspot.ca/2012/01/base-rate-of-kant.html .

After reading that post and having a bit of a think, I suspect it may be more or less true that individual figures won't stand the test of time quite so well any more, since it's so much harder to do so now, there's so much more work being done, blah blah blah. Nevertheless, I think that the 20th century has substantially changed the philosophical landscape--and not just in terms of rigour. I think that feminist philosophy has substantially contributed to public discourse, and will continue to inform philosophical ideas for quite some time to come. The philosophy of art has finally managed (since the '60s) to come into its own (it was pretty rubbish before then, and is quite substantially different now), and it looks like it'll continue contributing to our understanding for a long time yet. The philosophy of language likewise came into its own in that century, and ditto mind.

The list is hardly exhaustive, but I think it suffices to show that the twentieth century is probably one of the most important periods in the discipline's long history. Its figures may be more and smaller than before, but I think their contributions are just as--perhaps even more--important. We can measure the gilt of an age by numbering its giants, or by chronicling the development of ideas. It strikes me that the latter is the more important--and more useful--move.

Rob Gressis


(1) I'm a Kant scholar, and I'm delighted to hear that you think Kant is pretty much right in his ethics (and perhaps even in his metaphysics/epistemology?).
(2) It seems that what *you* most value is not just insight, creativity, or originality, but also truth. You emphasized that Kant not only had unparalleled creativity, but also was *almost* right. By contrast, you seemed willing to concede that Leibniz (and surely Plato and Descartes?) were about as insightful as Kant, but unlike them, Kant was almost right.

Or are you using "insightful" to mean "creative and right/close to right"?

(3) Also, one thing that's being lost: does the ability to write beautifully and innovatively--think here of Plato, Hume, Descartes, Pascal, Rousseau, Nietzsche, and Kierkegaard--contribute to one's status as a philosopher? I mean, the guys on the list I just gave weren't just good writers -- they were absolutely masterful; they provoked the "philosophical emotions" (such as aporia) that they were trying to provoke. That, I think, contributes to their philosophical status.

Marcus Arvan

Hi Michel: Thanks for your insightful comment. However, I just don't agree with your assessment of the state of things. I don't think the 20th century is one of the most important periods in the history of philosophy by a long shot. In particular, I think with (A) advances in science and neuroscience, combined with (B) what I hope are some revolutions in philosophical methodology suggested in my post(goodbye intuition-mongering and verbal debates! hello pragmatic conceptual analysis informed by coming breakthroughs in neuroscience!), a lot of philosophy from the 20th century will be forgotten as hopelessly quaint.

I think the 20th century might seem awesome because people in history always judge their time as "the awesomest ever". People in scholastic times post-Aristotle thought they had made a lot of important progress in philosophy of mind and language too -- but now we look at the scholastic period with much disdain. Similarly, people in Newton's time thought science was basically at an end. It all seems so silly now!

Anyway, I have the same feeling about a lot of 20th (and now 21st) century philosophy of mind, language, metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics. But I don't suppose I should go into much detail about why I think this. I'm half-tempted to, but I don't want to commit professional suicide. I've probably said too much already. ;)

Marcus Arvan

Rob: Yes, I do think Kant probably had quite a bit right in his metaphysics and epistemology, as well as in ethics.

Anyway, you're right -- in addition to creativity, I value *truth*. I would also say I value theories that are so awesome they *should* be true even if they aren't; and here again I think Kant takes the cake. ;) [note: if I were God, I wager would make Kant's world; even if our world isn't actually that way!]

In any case, no, I wouldn't say Leibniz had similar abilities of insight as Kant. By "insight", I mean what you said last: creative *and* (likely-to-be) true. Any genius can construct a fantastically creative theory. It takes a *true* genius to not only see things in a way that no one else has before, but to do so in a way that gets at the truth. After all, there is only *one* truth (well, there's that quantum mechanics thing, but whatever). Brilliant artificies, on the other hand, are a dime a dozen.

Finally, on writing: frankly, I could give two hoots about it. Kant is a terrible, terrible writer, but his ideas are so damn cool and deep (in my estimation) that I would (and do!) choose to read him more (and with more pleasure than) the others.

Matt DeStefano

I'd be curious to hear more about the type of revolution you see coming from experimental philosophy (combined with the contributions from Fisher and Chalmers).

I just finished Herman Cappelen's "Philosophy Without Intuitions", and he makes a pretty compelling case that (1) philosophers have generally been mistaken about the role of intuitions serving as evidence (or a source of evidence, and (2) experimental philosophy is wrongheaded because of (1). Previous to reading his book, I had generally taken for granted that philosophers -at some level - relied upon intuitions. I'm a bit more skeptical of that claim now.

Marcus Arvan

Hi Matt: I haven't read Cappellen's book, so perhaps I should reserve judgment.

All the same, I have read some reviews of it, and (if I recall what I've read correctly) it seems to me that he defines "intuition" in an overly narrow sense -- as completely unreflective snap judgments. If this is how he understands intuitions, I agree that philosophers don't use them -- but I think it's the wrong notion of intuition.

Maybe the suggestion I'm about to give won't work, but as a first gloss definition I think I'd want to understand intuitions instead in terms of *considered* judgments where there is no uncontroversial way of distinguishing whether the judgment:

(A) Is actually true.

as opposed to,

(B) Merely something the person(s) making it would *like* to be true.

This is the sense in which I think 20th (and now 21st) century philosophy -- and really, most of the history of philosophy -- seems to me deeply problematic.

Consider all of the following "considered judgments" that clearly *have* played a very strong role in 20th (and now 21st century) philosophy:

*Mary the super-color-scientist learns something new when let out of a black and white room.

*"Godel" in Kripke's Godel/Schmidt example refers to Godel, not Schmidt.

*Statue is not identical to lump in the statue/lump case in metaphysics.

*People have external normative reasons to act not founded in any of their subjective motivational states.

*Zombies are conceivable.


As I see it, the problem with all of these (and other similar judgments) is that we have *no* good method for determining whether any of these considered judgments are actually *true* instead of things that (some people) merely *want* to be true.

That's the relevant sense in which they seem to me to be "mere intuitions", and problematic. It may "seem true" to many people that psychopaths have external reasons to behave morally. But we don't want to know what "seems true". We want to know what *is* true, and in order to do that we need some kind of method for reliably distinguishing the two things. And I don't think we have that.

Indeed, although some intuitions (or "considered judgments) that have greatly influenced philosophy may "seem true" to a lot of people -- and have profoundly affected philosophy -- they *don't* seem true to others. I, for example, just don't share a lot of considered judgments with other philosophers. I don't find any of the intuitions (or considered judgments) that have been used to argue for external normative reasons or moral realism to be the least bit attractive. They just don't "seem true" to me at all.

The problem (by my lights, at any rate) is that philosophy then seems to look more like an "intuition popularity contest" (or, if you prefer, a "considered judgment popularity contest") than a set of methods we can -- with any clear justification -- reasonably believe to reliably track the truth (as opposed to what we *want* to be true).

So, again, what philosophy needs, I think, is a method for reliably distinguishing the two things I've been referring to:

(A) Considered philosophical judgments that *are* true, vs.
(B) Considered philosophical judgments we'd merely *like* to be true

While I don't think we have these things now, I am optimistic that Fisher's pragmatic conceptual analysis and Chalmers' method for revealing verbal disputes -- along with advances in neuroscience, etc. -- may be able to help philosophers better distinguish these things.

One example: as I indicated in my earlier post on counterfactual theories of causation, I think Chalmers' method can be used to show (pretty persuasively) that counterfactual theories -- however much they might conform to "our considered judgments" about causation -- are fundamentally misguided.

But maybe I am overly optimistic...

Rob Gressis

Hi Marcus,

Reading your comment, it seems like you think that, if we did philosophy right, we wouldn't disagree nearly as much as we do. I get this characterization from your remark that:

"The problem (by my lights, at any rate) is that philosophy then seems to look more like an 'intuition popularity contest' (or, if you prefer, a 'considered judgment popularity contest') than a set of methods we can -- with any clear justification -- reasonably believe to reliably track the truth (as opposed to what we *want* to be true)."

What's so bad about an intuition popularity contest? Is it that it prevents philosophy from finding the truth as easily?

Also, I'm not sure I understand your view of intuitions. Take this example:

"*Statue is not identical to lump in the statue/lump case in metaphysics."

Personally, I have a strong intuition that the statue is not identical to lump, because:

(A) it *seems* to me that the statue has modal properties that lump doesn't have, and vice versa.
(B) And it also *seems* to me that in order for X to be identical to Y, X and Y have to have all the same properties.

However, it *seems* to me passing strange to say that (A) and (B) are "considered judgments that I would like to be true". I suppose you could say I want them to be true because I so strongly think they are true, and so I don't want to be wrong, but that's not why I first thought they were true.

What am I missing?

Marcus Arvan

Hi Rob: thanks for your comment!

Here's the problem I have with the statue/lump case: it just *doesn't* "seem to me" that statue and lump have different persistence conditions. I think that if you smash a statue down to little bits, those little bits (the lump) *are* the statue. The statue/lump were *both* smashed to bits.

And so look: I realize this isn't the intuition/considered judgment that many people have -- but *I* have it, and I don't see any good method in philosophy as of now that can plausibly serve as good evidence that the way it seems to most people is right and the way it seems to me is wrong.

Things are, of course, very different in science. It once "seemed" to everyone that the Sun revolves around the Earth. Someone in a vast minority might have thought, no, it seems the Earth revolves around the Sun.

The main difference in the two cases, obviously, is that in the latter case we have some idea of what sorts of objective facts/intersubjective observations could reliably settle the issue one way (the Earth revolves around the Sun) over the other. In the philosophy case, we don't really have *anything* at present above and beyond "which intuitions are common/popular".

This strikes me as deeply problematic because, when it comes to a wide array of philosophical problems, I *don't* share the intuitions of the majority. My feeling is that people may have the intuition that lump/statue have different persistent conditions because -- whether they are consciously aware of it or not -- they just want a *problem* to work on. I, in contrast, don't think there's a problem at all. I think it's an invented one, and that statue/lump are strictly identical.

Now again, I realize that these are just *my* intuitions. But that's the problem. There was rampant disagreement in physical sciences -- Thales thought it is intuitive that all is water, Heroclitus thought it is intuitive that all is flux, etc. -- until science came up with a method for distinguishing wishful thinking from truth.

So, to address your main question: "What's so bad about an intuition popularity test?" My answer is: we lack any compelling methods as of now for determining which intuitions -- however popular or unpopular -- are actually true rather than "attractive". (Note: the language of attractiveness is often used in all areas of philosophy. People say, "Well, this theory isn't attractive for the following reason; that one is." But attractiveness ain't truth, and I am optimistic that there are some promising new methods for resolving (or at least dramatically minimizing) this problem.

Marcus Arvan

Rob: I thought I might add a bit more to my last reply. If you recall my earlier post on counterfactual theories of causation ("The truth about billy and Suzy?), I think Chalmers' new method can be used to show pretty persuasively that counterfactual theories of "causation" aren't properly metaphysical theories at all, but rather theories of what we choose to call "causes." The argument I gave later on in the comments section of the post was that, when we use Chalmers' approach, we can plainly see that counterfactual theories have the wrong direction of fit (they move from concepts to the world whereas a genuine metaphysical theory should move from the world to *justifying* some concepts over others (as genuinely metaphysical or merely conceptual).

I want to say the same method works for the statue and lump case. If we replace the concepts "statue" and "lump" with non-metaphysically loaded descriptions of the world itself, we have something like this: "The physical matter arranged thusly ceased to exist when no longer shaped thusly." Since clearly the same matter (stuff actually in the world beyond our conceptualization of it) clearly *does* continue to exist web it is no longer arranged statue-ly, in every truly *metaphysical* sense statue and lump are identical (they are just one thing: matter).

Marcus Arvan

Another note: Berit Brogaard has a new paper arguing against Cappelen's analysis of intuitions. Here's the title and abstract:

"Intuitions as Intellectual Seemings"
Inquiry (forthcoming)

In Philosophy Without Intuitions Herman Cappelen argues that unlike what is commonly thought, contemporary analytic philosophers do not typically rely on intuitions as evidence. If they do indeed rely on intuitions, that should be evident from their written works, either explicitly in the form of ‘intuition’ talk or by means of other indicators. However, Cappelen argues, while philosophers do engage in ‘intuition’ talk, that is not a good indicator that they rely on intuitions, as ‘intuition’ and its cognates have many meanings that are irrelevant to this particular question. He identifies three other indicators and argues by appeal to case studies that these indicators are not present. I argue here that an account of intuitions as intellectual seemings draws attention to intuition features that Cappelen does not consider. These intuition features appear to be regularly present in the works of contemporary analytic philosophers.

Matt DeStefano

Marcus, thanks for the thoughtful response. Coincidentally, I am reading Cappelen's book in a seminar I'm taking from Berit. Although she hasn't really laid out her response w/r/t intellectual seemings, she does seem to find problems with Cappelen's account of intuitions. (I'm going to ask to see that paper!)

I don't think that Cappelen defines intuitions as unreflective snap judgments - he actually spends about half the book showing why a definition of intuition is slippery. Depending on the context, Cappelen argues, intuition-talk serves different purposes. It can work as a sort of hedge in confidence against a certainly proposition (compare: Mary has new knowledge v. Intuitively, Mary has new knowledge.) In some cases, he advocates that we can simply remove the language and nothing will be lost from the argument.

It's an interesting read, and his case-study analysis is pretty thorough IMO. Your remark about persistence conditions is a good example, even with regard to mereology, there are arguments for mereological nihilism or universalism (or some joint proposal). I don't know that we need to rely on intuitions about it. It could also be that there really isn't a problem (which I'm inclined to say).

Moti Mizrahi

I think that how we define "intuition" is a red herring. The important question is whether judgments made in response to hypothetical cases play an evidential role in philosophical arguments. I think they do. When Jackson considers the Mary case and says "Mary learns something new upon her release," he is making a judgment about the case that he then uses as a premise in his argument against physicalism.

BTW, Jackson's knowledge argument is not an outlier: http://philosopherscocoon.typepad.com/blog/2012/11/intuition-what-intuition.html

Marcus Arvan

Hi Moti: as you can probably tell from my earlier comments, I wholeheartedly agree. Call them whatever you like -- "intuitions" or "considered judgments" or whatever -- they are still problematic precisely because there is no obvious connection between what "seems true" or "plausible" to people and what *is* true. I think you and I are very much in agreement, and I admire your attempts in your own work to get philosophers to stop tolerating intuition/considered judgment mongering.

Moti Mizrahi

Glad we are in agreement, Marcus. And thanks for your kind words.

Matt DeStefano

Hi Moti: I don't know that I would agree that defining intuition is a red herring. If the claim under scrutiny is that "philosophy relies on intuitions", then it seems necessary to define intuition before we can investigate whether or not that is true. It seems that you are merely defining intuitions as "judgments made in response to hypothetical cases".

Cappelen argues that cases, such as Mary, just bring our attention to relevant features of the world. Moreover, he argues that it is a misconception to think that judgments about cases are "rock-bottom points in philosophical discourse" (p. 192), and that they are not points where arguments/justification/reasons run out. He quotes Tamar Gendler's analysis of Thomson's thought experiment as a broad way of looking at cases:

"Thomson's thought experiment 'works' if it brings about a reframing of the subject's attitudes in the domain it is intended to illuminate - if he comes, either reflectively or unreflectively, to represent the question of the fetus-mother relationship in ways akin to those that he represents the violinist-patient relationship." (Gendler 2007, p. 86)

With the Jackson case, I actually think that there is an argument that we could formulate without simply relying on the judgment as a premise. See, for instance, Nida-Rümelin's discussion of the argument from the 'big idea' in the SEP: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/qualia-knowledge/#2

As for your post, to his credit Cappelen spends the first half of his book going over what he thinks authors mean when they use intuition-talk. It would go too far afield to try and explain every case here, but he doesn't ignore that many philosophers openly talk about intuitions.

Moti Mizrahi

Hi Matt: In all the formulations of the knowledge argument in the SEP entry, the key premise is the following (or some variation thereof):

(2) But there is some information about human color vision that she does not have before her release.

Where does this judgment come from if not from considering the Mary case and saying something like "she must have learned something new"? Isn't that a "rock-bottom" point in the knowledge argument? One could try to sweep this point under the carpet. But that doesn't mean that point is not essential to the knowledge argument.

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