Friday, August 15, 2008


Brian Weatherson argues that intuitions are generally reliable. He does this by showing that intuitions are right about things like "steak eating is bad for your waistline".

Well yes indeed that is correct. In fact intuitions almost certainly beat random guesses, in familiar situations they beat random guesses by a very wide margin. the problem then is not the use of intuitions - in many contexts they do provide some sort of evidence - it is instead what weight we place on that evidence and whether we are indeed using it in a context in which it is relevant.

Now first the reason why we can guess that steak eating is bad for your waistline is because we have been told that by doctors - and even if we had not we have been told by doctors similar things (like eating fat will make you fat and fat is found in meat). this brings us to the first point - are philosophers using intuition to solve problems that are very similar (in the relevant sense) to problems we have correctly solved and verified before?

the second issue is related to what we do once we have come to a conclusion. I expect that eating steak will make people fat - interestingly I eat lots of steak and it hasn't made me fat at all in fact if anything I'm unnaturally skinny. I could base my philosophy of dieting on the fact that steak is bad for my waistline but obviously it's not a hard and fast rule. this however is the sort of vague rule that intuition tends to produce.


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