In This Article Intuitions

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Anthologies
  • Reference Works
  • Models of Intuitions
  • Understanding and Apriority
  • Conceptual Analysis
  • Thought Experiments

Philosophy Intuitions
by
Jonathan Ichikawa, Ernest Sosa
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 November 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396577-0059

Introduction

Philosophy often proceeds via appeals to intuition. In a prototypical instance, a theory is rejected on the basis of its counterintuitive verdict about a real or hypothetical case. A famous example is Edmund Gettier’s rejection of the justified “true belief” theory of knowledge; the dominant view was that knowledge was equivalent to justified true belief, but Gettier provided thought experiments involving subjects with beliefs derived from justified falsehoods, which happened by luck to be true—these thought experiments generally gave rise to intuitions to the effect that they described cases of justified true belief without knowledge. And on this basis, 20th-century epistemologists generally rejected the justified true belief theory. In recent decades, significant metaphilosophical attention has turned to such uses of intuitions in philosophy. What are intuitions? In what sense do arguments such as Gettier’s rely on the use of intuitions? Why should we trust them? What can they show us? This entry focuses on contemporary work on these and related topics.

General Overviews

There are relatively few nonpartisan introductions to the topic of intuitions in philosophy, although Nagel 2007 is a concise and helpful exception; it focuses on epistemic intuitions in particular, but much of its content will be general information. Nichols and Knobe 2008 introduces the experimental philosophy movement in both its positive and negative forms (see Experimental Philosophy). Pust 2000 is a book-length presentation of a traditional approach to intuitions in philosophy, while Williamson 2004 gives a much more deflationary treatment of philosophical intuitions. Grundmann 2007 is also listed, as it contains discussion and criticism of a wide variety of approaches.

  • Grundmann, Thomas. “The Nature of Rational Intuitions and a Fresh Look at the Explanationist Objection.” Grazer Philosophische Studien 74.1: (2007): 69–87.

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    Offers a traditional picture of rational intuition. Intuitions are evidential sources based in understanding. Responds to explanationist skepticism. Also contains good overview of recent approaches to intuition.

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    • Knobe, Joshua, and Shaun Nichols. “An Experimental Philosophy Manifesto.” In Experimental Philosophy. Edited by Joshua Knobe and Shaun Nichols, 3–14. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008.

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      An articulation and defense of the relevance of experimental work to philosophy. Emphasizes the philosophical interest of psychological facts and the role of experimental data as a supplement to traditional philosophical theorizing.

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      • Nagel, Jennifer. “Epistemic Intuitions.” Philosophy Compass 2.6 (2007): 792–819.

        DOI: 10.1111/j.1747-9991.2007.00104.xE-mail Citation »

        An excellent comprehensive primer on intuition. Focuses on intuitions in epistemology but largely applicable to all philosophical intuitions. Emphasis on intuitions in the history of philosophy and on recent psychological data about intuitions.

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        • Pust, Joel. Intuitions as Evidence. New York: Garland, 2000.

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          A monograph treatment of the use of intuitions in philosophy. Defends a psychologistic, “seeming” -based account of intuition and defends the use of intuitions as evidence in philosophy from skeptical arguments.

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          • Williamson, Timothy. “Philosophical ‘Intuitions’ and Scepticism about Judgment.” Dialectica 58 (2004): 109–153.

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            Defends a reductivist view according to which “intuitions” are judgments or inclinations to judge. There are general reasons to think judgments generally reliable, so there is no particular reason for skepticism about the use of intuitions in philosophy. Substantially overlaps chapters 7–8 of Williamson 2007 (cited under Defenses), although the latter is more eliminativist than reductivist.

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            Anthologies

            As philosophical attention to philosophical methods has increased, many collections have been published in recent years. Beyer and Burri 2007 and Midwest Studies in Philosophy 2007 are both special issues focusing on intuitions and philosophical methodology, containing diverse contemporary discussions of value for researchers in the area. Knobe and Nichols 2008 is a good introduction to experimental philosophy, suitable for an advanced undergraduate or graduate course. Gendler and Hawthorne 2002 is not devoted specifically to methodology, but many of the discussions of modal epistemology are of methodological significance; so likewise with Boghossian and Peacocke’s contribution on the a priori (Boghossian and Peacocke 2000). Because scrutiny in metaphilosophy has developed so quickly and recently, much of DePaul and Ramsey 1998 is already somewhat dated.

            • Beyer, Christian, and Alex Burri, eds. Special Issue: Philosophical Knowledge. Grazer Philosophische Studien 74 (2007).

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              Proceedings of a conference on philosophical methodology.

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              • Boghossian, Paul, and Christopher Peacocke, eds. New Essays on the A Priori. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.

                DOI: 10.1093/0199241279.001.0001E-mail Citation »

                A collection of new articles by leading figures on apriority in philosophy. The short introduction provides a concise introduction to the area, emphasizing the distinction between enabling and warranting experience. Most of the essays are written at a fairly high philosophical level; recommended for graduate seminars and up.

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                • DePaul, Michael R., and William Ramsey, eds. Rethinking Intuition: The Psychology of Intuition and Its Role in Philosophical Inquiry. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 1998.

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                  The first major anthology on intuitions, containing an early survey of philosophical approaches to intuitions. Particular emphasis on the psychological origins of intuitions and skepticism about their use in philosophy. Includes important precursors to the experimental philosophy movement.

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                  • Gendler, Tamar Szabó, and John Hawthorne, eds. Conceivability and Possibility. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002.

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                    A major anthology in modal epistemology, including several discussions of the role of intuitions in modal epistemology.

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                    • Knobe, Joshua, and Shaun Nichols, eds. Experimental Philosophy. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008.

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                      A collection of (mostly reprinted) essays characterizing experimental philosophy. A particular emphasis on the role of experimental data in moral philosophy but also includes early discussions of epistemology. Well suited for a graduate-level or advanced undergraduate course.

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                      • Special Issue: Philosophy and the Empirical. Midwest Studies in Philosophy 31 (2007).

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                        Special issue on empirical investigation on intuitions in philosophy.

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                        Reference Works

                        There are several Internet resources that are relevant to the use of intuitions in philosophy. Brown 2009 contains a comprehensive overview on literature in thought experiments, connecting their use in science to their use in philosophy. The Intuition page maintained by PhilPapers is a continually updated repository of published and unpublished work in the field; more casual ideas in progress and announcements of papers and events can be found on the Arché Intuitions and Methodology Project Weblog.

                        • Arché Intuitions and Methodology Project Weblog.

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                          Includes discussion of current ideas in metaphilosophy, as well as announcements of relevant papers, upcoming events, and the like.

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                          • Brown, James Robert. “Thought Experiments.” In The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Edited by Edward N. Zalta. 2009.

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                            A comprehensive overview of thought experiments in science and philosophy.

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                            • Koksvik, Ole, ed. “Intuition.” In PhilPapers. Edited by David Bourget and David Chalmers.

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                              A comprehensive collection of papers about intuition available online. Updated regularly.

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                              Models of Intuitions

                              Although most philosophers working on intuitions share the common idea that philosophy relies in important ways on intuitions, there is not a consensus on what intuitions are. This section highlights a few prominent approaches to intuition. Bealer 1992 and Pust 2000 defend an account of intuitions as a special kind of “intellectual seeming,” analogous to perceptual appearance. Sosa 1998, Sosa 2007, and Ludwig 2007, by contrast, characterize intuitions via etiology; intuitions are judgments or inclinations that arise from particular sorts of understanding. A more deflationary approach is given by Devitt 2006 and Williamson 2007 (cited under Defenses): Intuitions are just general judgments or inclinations to judge, without any distinctive epistemological role to play. Cappelen 2012 goes further still, arguing that it is a descriptive error to assume that philosophy uses intuitions in any interesting way.

                              • Bealer, George. “The Incoherence of Empiricism.” Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 66 (1992): 99–138.

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                                Defends a “seeming” -based account of philosophical intuitions and argues that intuitions, so construed, are important prima facie evidence in philosophy. Argues that appeal to intuition is an essential part of any argument, including empiricist arguments designed to undercut the probative value of intuitions.

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                                • Cappelen, Herman. Philosophy without Intuitions. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012.

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                                  Examines and rejects two arguments for the idea that philosophers use intuitions as evidence. Defends a broadly standard philosophical methodology, but argues that it has been a mistake to describe it as relying on intuition.

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                                  • Devitt, Michael. “Intuitions.” In Ontology Studies = Cuadernos de Ontología: Proceedings of VI International Ontology Congress (San Sebastián, 2004). Edited by Victor Gómez Pin, José Ignacio Galparaso, and Gotzon Arrizabalaga, 169–176. San Sebastian, Spain: Universidad del Pais Vasco, 2006.

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                                    From the proceedings of the Sixth International Ontology Congress, held in San Sebastian in 2004. Defends a naturalistic approach to intuitions; intuitions are a posteriori judgments and have a legitimate, if limited, role in philosophical methodology.

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                                    • Ludwig, Kirk. “The Epistemology of Thought Experiments: First Person versus Third Person Approaches.” Midwest Studies in Philosophy 31 (2007): 128–159.

                                      DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4975.2007.00160.xE-mail Citation »

                                      Defends an understanding-based approach to intuitions and the epistemology of philosophy.

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                                      • Pust, Joel. Intuitions as Evidence. New York: Garland, 2000.

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                                        A monograph treatment of the use of intuitions in philosophy. Defends a psychologistic, “seeming” -based account of intuition and defends the use of intuitions as evidence in philosophy from skeptical arguments.

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                                        • Sosa, Ernest. “Minimal Intuition.” In Rethinking Intuition: The Psychology of Intuition and Its Role in Philosophical Inquiry. Edited by Michael R. DePaul and William Ramsey, 257–270. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 1998.

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                                          Offers an account of intuition in terms of understanding; intuitions are cases of belief about abstract, triggered by understanding. Emphasizes parallels with other sources of knowledge, such as memory and introspection. Argues that intuitions can provide warrant for belief, at least in favorable circumstances.

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                                          • Sosa, Ernest. A Virtue Epistemology. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007.

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                                            A sustained defense and articulation of a virtue-theoretic approach to epistemology. Chapter 3 applies the approach to intuitions: Intuition is the product of a reliablistic competence to believe certain truths. On this model, intuitions can serve as regress-stoppers in a foundationalist epistemology, even though, unlike such traditional foundations as sensory experience, intuitions, being conceptual, are rationally assessable.

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                                            • Williamson, Timothy. “Philosophical ‘Intuitions’ and Scepticism about Judgment.” Dialectica 58 (2004): 109–153.

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                                              Defends a reductivist view according to which “intuitions” are judgments or inclinations to judge. There are general reasons to think judgments generally reliable, so there is no particular skeptical challenge to use of intuitions in philosophy. Substantially overlaps chapters 7–8 of Williamson 2007 (cited under Defenses), although the latter is more eliminativist than reductivist.

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                                              Epistemology of Philosophy

                                              How do philosophers come to know philosophical truths? If philosophers are relying on intuitions, is this a trustworthy methodology? This section is divided into two subsections: Worries about traditional, intuition-based methodology and Defenses of it.

                                              Worries

                                              This section lists some influential articulations of worries about intuition-based philosophical methodology. (Worries deriving from experimental philosophy have, somewhat artificially, been excluded here; see Experimental Philosophy.) Cummins 1998 and Harman 1977 contain important early critiques in the “explanationist objection,” while Stich 1990 contains important precursors to experimental philosophy–based worries. Kornblith 2007 relates the use of intuitions to naturalism. Hintikka 1999 charges that philosophical methodology is insufficiently attentive to its own practices, while Goldberg 2009 presents an argument based on reliability against justification for philosophical justification. Gopnik and Schwitzgebel 1998 suggests that significant data from developmental psychology is neglected in philosophical inquiry.

                                              • Cummins, Robert. “Reflections on Reflective Equilibrium.” In Rethinking Intuition: The Psychology of Intuition and Its Role in Philosophical Inquiry. Edited by Michael R. DePaul and William Ramsey, 113–128. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 1998.

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                                                Argues that intuitions cannot be calibrated—their reliability cannot be verified by independent means, therefore they ought not to be trusted.

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                                                • Goldberg, Sanford C. “Reliabilism in Philosophy.” Philosophical Studies 142 (2009): 105–117.

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                                                  Argues against the justification of philosophical beliefs, based on considerations of reliability. In many contested areas of philosophy, the methods of philosophy yield diverse opinions; hence those methods cannot in general constitute a reliable source of philosophical opinions, and their outputs cannot be epistemically justified.

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                                                  • Gopnik, Alison, and Eric Schwitzgebel. “Whose Concepts Are They, Anyway? The Role of Philosophical Intuition in Empirical Psychology.” In Rethinking Intuition: The Psychology of Intuition and Its Role in Philosophical Inquiry. Edited by Michael R. DePaul and William Ramsey, 75–91. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 1998.

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                                                    Explores the role that developmental psychology can and should play in the use of intuitions in philosophy.

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                                                    • Harman, Gilbert. The Nature of Morality. New York: Oxford University Press, 1977.

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                                                      Primarily a defense of ethical antirealism, Harman raises an important form of challenge to philosophical judgments generally: If, as appears to be the case in ethics, judgments aren’t caused by their subject matters, then we find no reason to trust them; our intuitions are not a way of investigating the world.

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                                                      • Hintikka, Jaakko. “The Emperor’s New Intuitions.” Journal of Philosophy 96 (1999): 127–147.

                                                        DOI: 10.2307/2564660E-mail Citation »

                                                        Traces the contemporary philosophical practice of appeal to intuitions to the mid-20th century. Argues that such appeals are now made absent by any epistemological explanation justifying the practice and that therefore, it ought to be abandoned.

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                                                        • Kornblith, Hilary. “Naturalism and Intuitions.” Grazer Philosophische Studien 74 (2007): 27–49.

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                                                          Argues that a naturalistic conception of philosophy is inconsistent with traditional reliance on intuitions. Empirical work in psychology demonstrates that the project of conceptual analysis is futile; we ought not to give intuitions more than a limited role.

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                                                          • Stich, Stephen. The Fragmentation of Reason. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1990.

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                                                            Argues that reliance on intuition proceeds from the unwarranted assumption that intuitions must be universal; since people with systematically false intuitions are possible, we ought not to give our own intuitions normative weight.

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                                                            Defenses

                                                            A central worry about the use of intuitions in philosophy is that it isn’t clear how an intuition-based epistemology of philosophy could proceed. This section includes several prominent attempts to articulate such programs. See also Understanding and Apriority and Conceptual Analysis. Bealer 1992, Ludwig 2007, and Grundmann 2007 are significant canonical statements of contemporary rationalism, while Levin 2004 and Williamson 2007 connect philosophical intuition to more general kinds of reasoning. Pust 2000 and Pust 2001 offer a resistance to explanationist skepticism; Sosa 2007 extends virtue epistemology to intuitions in philosophy, while Sosa 2011 applies the model to challenges from experimental philosophy.

                                                            • Bealer, George. “The Incoherence of Empiricism.” Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 66 (1992) 99–138.

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                                                              Defends a “seeming” -based account of philosophical intuitions and argues that intuitions, so construed, are important prima facie evidence in philosophy. Argues that appeal to intuition is an essential part of any argument—including empiricist arguments designed to undercut the probative value of intuitions.

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                                                              • Grundmann, Thomas. “The Nature of Rational Intuitions and a Fresh Look at the Explanationist Objection.” Grazer Philosophische Studien 74 (2007).

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                                                                Offers a traditional picture of rational intuition. Intuitions are evidential sources based in understanding. Responds to explanationist skepticism. Also contains a good overview of recent approaches to intuition.

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                                                                • Levin, Janet. “The Evidential Status of Philosophical Intuition.” Philosophical Studies 121 (2004): 193–224.

                                                                  DOI: 10.1007/s11098-005-4613-2E-mail Citation »

                                                                  A new account of philosophical intuition and its evidential status. Combines traditionalist with naturalist elements.

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                                                                  • Ludwig, Kirk. “The Epistemology of Thought Experiments: First Person versus Third Person Approaches.” Midwest Studies in Philosophy 31 (2007): 128–159.

                                                                    DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4975.2007.00160.xE-mail Citation »

                                                                    Defends an understanding-based approach to intuitions and the epistemology of philosophy. Intuitions are products of pure conceptual competence and thus a perfectly reliable guide to philosophical truth.

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                                                                    • Pust, Joel. Intuitions as Evidence. New York: Garland, 2000.

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                                                                      A monograph treatment of the use of intuitions in philosophy. Defends a psychologistic, “seeming” -based account of intuition and defends the use of intuitions as evidence in philosophy from skeptical arguments.

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                                                                      • Pust, Joel. “Against Explanationist Skepticism Regarding Philosophical Intuitions.” Philosophical Studies 106 (2001): 227–258.

                                                                        DOI: 10.1023/A:1013356707899E-mail Citation »

                                                                        Defends the use of intuitions in philosophy against skeptical arguments that treat intuitions merely as psychological entities to be explained. Such skeptical arguments are epistemically self-defeating.

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                                                                        • Sosa, Ernest. A Virtue Epistemology. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007.

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                                                                          A sustained defense and articulation of a virtue-theoretic approach to epistemology. Chapter 3 applies the approach to intuitions: Intuition is the product of a reliablistic competence to believe certain truths. On this model, intuitions can serve as regress-stoppers in a foundationalist epistemology even though, unlike such traditional foundations as sensory experience, intuitions, being conceptual, are rationally assessable.

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                                                                          • Sosa, Ernest. “Can There Be a Discipline of Philosophy? And Can It Be Founded on Intuitions?” Mind & Language 26.4 (2011): 453–467.

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                                                                            Takes up the critique of armchair philosophy drawn by some experimental philosophers from survey results. It also takes up a more recent development with increased methodological sophistication. The argument based on disagreement among respondents suggests a much more serious problem for armchair philosophy and puts in question the standing of our would-be discipline.

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                                                                            • Williamson, Timothy. The Philosophy of Philosophy. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2007.

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                                                                              A central piece in contemporary metaphilosophy. Defends an antiexceptionalist approach to philosophy: Philosophy works the same way as inquiry generally, and intuitions do not play a distinctive role in philosophy; widespread statements to the contrary misconstrue proper philosophical practice.

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                                                                              Understanding and Apriority

                                                                              According to a traditional view, philosophical investigation can proceed via invocation of intuition because there are tight links between understanding and intuition; according to one version of the view, to understand a concept fully entails that one’s intuitions about its application will be reliable. These essays develop and investigate this idea. Jackson 2000 and Jackson 2004 develop a two-dimensionalist approach to understanding and apriority; Peacocke 2000 and Ichikawa and Jarvis 2013 each defend related views. This kind of approach is criticized in Williamson 2007a, which is generally incorporated into chapter 4 of Williamson 2007b. See also Conceptual Analysis. Bealer 1998 and Sosa 2007 link understanding to apriority without two-dimensionalism by restricting the relevant domains to philosophical subject matters.

                                                                              • Bealer, George. “Intuition and the Autonomy of Philosophy.” In Rethinking Intuition: The Psychology of Intuition and Its Role in Philosophical Inquiry. Edited by Michael DePaul and William Ramsey, 201–239. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 1998.

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                                                                                A strong version of a philosophical exceptionalist view: Philosophical inquiry is independent from science; and when science conflicts with it, philosophy is, at least in principle, authoritative.

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                                                                                • Ichikawa, Jonathan Jenkins, and Benjamin W. Jarvis. The Rules of Thought. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013.

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                                                                                  Defends a rationalist theory of mental content, with applications to the epistemology of the a priori. The general rational capacity for thought can ground philosophical knowledge. Denies that intuitions play any central role.

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                                                                                  • Jackson, Frank. “Representation, Scepticism, and the A Priori.” In New Essays on the A Priori. Edited by Paul Boghossian and Christopher Peacocke, 320–332. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.

                                                                                    DOI: 10.1093/0199241279.001.0001E-mail Citation »

                                                                                    Argues that general considerations about representation and communication entail that if logic is a priori, then so are many “conceptual analysis” sentences.

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                                                                                    • Jackson, Frank. “Why We Need A-Intensions.” Philosophical Studies 116 (2004): 257–277.

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                                                                                      Defends apriority against concerns from the necessary a posteriori. An argument that our ability to use language requires us to grasp the representational contents of terms such as “water.”

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                                                                                      • Peacocke, Christopher. “Explaining the A Priori: The Programme of Moderate Rationalism.” In New Essays on the A Priori. Edited by Paul Boghossian and Christopher Peacocke, 255–285. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.

                                                                                        DOI: 10.1093/0199241279.001.0001E-mail Citation »

                                                                                        Attempts to explain a priori knowledge by arguing that in favorable cases the individuation conditions for the possession of concepts track the truth conditions of their target properties. The semantic value of, for example, logical constant concepts is fixed by the inferences we’re prepared to draw, in a way guaranteed to preserve truth.

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                                                                                        • Sosa, Ernest. A Virtue Epistemology. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007.

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                                                                                          A sustained defense and articulation of a virtue-theoretic approach to epistemology. Chapter 3 applies the approach to intuitions: Intuition is the product of a reliablistic competence to believe certain truths. On this model, intuitions can serve as regress-stoppers in a foundationalist epistemology, even though unlike such traditional foundations as sensory experience, intuitions, being conceptual, are rationally assessable.

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                                                                                          • Williamson, Timothy. “Conceptual Truth.” Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 80 (2007a): 1–41.

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                                                                                            Argues against epistemic conceptions of analyticity; understanding is never sufficient for knowledge of any sentences or thoughts, since it is possible, consistent with understanding, to adopt views that require their rejection. Substantially overlaps chapter 4 of Williamson 2007b.

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                                                                                            • Williamson, Timothy. The Philosophy of Philosophy. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2007b.

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                                                                                              A treatment of philosophical methodology emphasizing continuity with other disciplines. Rejects psychologistic conceptions of philosophical subject matter and evidence. Denies that philosophical questions are distinctively a priori or analytic.

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                                                                                              Conceptual Analysis

                                                                                              A traditional philosophical project is to provide an analysis of some target concept; intuitions are thought to play important roles in constructing and refuting such analyses. Jackson 1998 and Goldman 2007 offer two rather different ways of developing this idea, but the project faces important criticisms, such as those presented by Bishop 1992, Kornblith 2002, and especially Kornblith 2007. Weatherson 2003 suggests a more limited role for intuition and conceptual analysis, raising questions about how tightly reference matches intuitions.

                                                                                              • Bishop, Michael “The Possibility of Conceptual Clarity in Philosophy.” American Philosophical Quarterly 29 (1992): 267–277.

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                                                                                                Argues that prototypically armchair cases of “counterexample philosophy” are not well suited to provide clarity; philosophy is “hostage to empirical fact” and therefore should proceed on a scientific model.

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                                                                                                • Goldman, Alvin I. “Philosophical Intuitions: Their Target, Their Source, and Their Epistemic Status.” Grazer Philosophische Studien 74 (2007): 1–26.

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                                                                                                  Considers the subject matter of philosophy and argues that since intuitions are used as evidence in philosophy, philosophers must be studying individual mentalistic concepts. Intuitions are reliable evidence for facts about these concepts.

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                                                                                                  • Jackson, Frank. From Metaphysics to Ethics: A Defense of Conceptual Analysis. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.

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                                                                                                    A central and influential work, defending a two-dimensionalist semantics with a central role for a priori conceptual analysis.

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                                                                                                    • Kornblith, Hilary. Knowledge and Its Place in Nature. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002.

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                                                                                                      Defends a naturalistic epistemology, advocating the scientific study of knowledge in nonhuman animals. Intuitions have a role only in initial, tentative data collection.

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                                                                                                      • Kornblith, Hilary. “Naturalism and Intuitions.” Grazer Philosophische Studien 74 (2007): 27–49.

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                                                                                                        Argues that a naturalistic conception of philosophy is inconsistent with traditional reliance on intuitions. Empirical work in psychology demonstrates that the project of conceptual analysis is futile; we ought not to give intuitions more than a limited role.

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                                                                                                        • Weatherson, Brian. “What Good Are Counterexamples?” Philosophical Studies 115 (2003): 1–31.

                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1023/A:1024961917413E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                          Argues that central philosophical intuitions, such as the Gettier intuition, cannot be as straightforwardly applied as is standard practice. Following Lewis, naturalness can play a role in fixing reference; a simpler theory with counterintuitive consequences may be correct.

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                                                                                                          Experimental Philosophy

                                                                                                          A contemporary movement of “experimental philosophy” has gained recent prominence. Experimental philosophers emphasize the place in philosophical investigation for empirical data, collected using the methods of science, typically psychology. Some experimental philosophers have argued that empirical investigation shows armchair methodology to be importantly misguided; nonskeptical uses of experimental philosophy seek merely to enrich our understanding of, for example, various philosophical concepts. Skeptical arguments are considered in Data, Theory, and Responses; nonskeptical uses of experimental philosophy are highlighted in Nonskeptical Experimental Philosophy. More casual ideas in progress and announcements of papers and events can be found on the Experimental Philosophy Weblog.

                                                                                                          • Experimental Philosophy Weblog.

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                                                                                                            The online center of the experimental philosophy movement; a large and diverse team of authors discusses work relevant to experimental philosophy and announces new papers.

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                                                                                                            Data

                                                                                                            This section includes papers that present particular empirical results that are thought to challenge certain kinds of armchair investigation. Weinberg, et al. 2001, Nichols, et al. 2003 and Swain, et al. 2008 find divergence with respect to various intuitions in epistemology, while Machery, et al. 2004 finds divergence with respect to intuitions about reference. These pieces suggest that armchair reliance on intuition is threatened by this cross-cultural and temporal divergence. Green 2003 suggests that neuroscientific considerations give us reason to be suspicious of certain moral intuitions. For more abstract presentations of experimental criticisms of armchair methodology, see Theory. For defenses of the use of armchair intuitions, see Responses.

                                                                                                            • Greene, Joshua. “From Neural ‘Is’ to Moral ‘Ought’: What Are the Moral Implications of Neuroscientific Moral Psychology?Neuroscience 4 (2003): 847–850.

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                                                                                                              A neuroscientific study of brain patterns underwriting different kinds of moral intuitions. Suggests that such data gives reason to question moral realism.

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                                                                                                              • Machery, Edouard, Ron Mallon, Shaun Nichols, and Stephen P. Stich. “Semantics, Cross-Cultural Style.” Cognition 92 (2004): B1–B12.

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                                                                                                                Finds cross-cultural divergence with respect to Kripkean antidescriptivist intuitions about proper names. East Asians are found more likely to report descriptivist intuitions than Westerners are. Concludes Kripke’s methodology is importantly flawed. Available online.

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                                                                                                                • Nichols, Shaun, Stephen Stich, and Jonathan M. Weinberg. “Metaskepticism: Meditations in Ethno-Epistemology.” In The Skeptics: Contemporary Essays. Edited by Steven Luper, 227–247. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2003.

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                                                                                                                  Finds evidence that skeptical intuitions in epistemology vary cross-culturally.

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                                                                                                                  • Swain, Stacey, Joshua Alexander, and Jonathan M. Weinberg. “The Instability of Philosophical Intuitions: Running Hot and Cold on TrueTemp.” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 76 (2008): 138–155.

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                                                                                                                    An empirical study indicating that some epistemic intuitions—judgments about Keith Lehrer’s TrueTemp case—tend to vary according to presentation order. Draws skeptical morals about the use of intuitions in philosophy.

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                                                                                                                    • Weinberg, Jonathan M., Shaun Nichols, and Stephen Stich. “Normativity and Epistemic Intuitions.” Philosophical Topics 29 (2001): 429–460.

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                                                                                                                      The first major survey-based challenge to traditional philosophical methodology. Presents data indicating that influential intuitions in epistemology vary according to cultural background and therefore ought not to be relied upon in epistemology.

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                                                                                                                      Theory

                                                                                                                      This section lists more theoretical treatments of experimentally based skepticism about elements of traditional philosophical methodology; these papers attempt to articulate in some detail just how it is that the data discovered and emphasized by experimental philosophers bears against traditional intuition-based philosophical methodology. Bishop and Trout 2005 and Alexander and Weinberg 2007 focus on epistemology—particularly its normative elements, while Mallon, et al. 2009 applies experimental work on intuitions about reference to philosophy of language and its uses elsewhere in philosophy. Singer 2005 questions the use of ethical intuitions against utilitarianism. Weinberg 2007 is a general treatment of experimental philosophy–based skepticism about philosophical methods. Horowitz 1998 questions a class of moral intuitions based on considerations of psychological theorizing about reasoning with gains and losses.

                                                                                                                      • Alexander, Joshua, and Jonathan M. Weinberg. “Analytic Epistemology and Experimental Philosophy.” Philosophy Compass 2.1 (2007): 56–80.

                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1111/j.1747-9991.2006.00048.xE-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                        An accessible and clear summary of experimental pressure against armchair methodology in epistemology. Considers prominent objections to standard skeptical arguments; a good initial resource for this area.

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                                                                                                                        • Bishop, Michael, and J. D. Trout. “The Pathologies of Standard Analytic Epistemology.” Noûs 39.4 (2005): 696–714.

                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1111/j.0029-4624.2005.00545.xE-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                          Argues that armchair methods are ill-suited to draw normative conclusions in epistemology; epistemologists should attend more to psychological results and less to their own intuitions.

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                                                                                                                          • Horowitz, Tamara. “Philosophical Intuitions and Psychological Theory.” In Rethinking Intuition: The Psychology of Intuition and Its Role in Philosophical Inquiry. Edited by Michael DePaul and William Ramsey, 143–159. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 1998.

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                                                                                                                            Attempts to explain away a particular sort of anticonsequentialist ethical intuition by attributing it to a general tendency to overestimate the value of losses relative to gains. Grounded in Kahneman and Tversky’s influential prospect theory.

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                                                                                                                            • Mallon, Ron, Edouard Machery, Shaun Nichols, and Stephen Stich. “Against Arguments from Reference.” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 79.2 (2009): 332–356.

                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.1111/j.1933-1592.2009.00281.xE-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                              Attacks philosophical arguments that proceed from arguments about semantic reference. Theories of reference are problematically based in intuition.

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                                                                                                                              • Singer, Peter. “Ethical Intuitions.” Journal of Ethics 9 (2005): 331–352.

                                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1007/s10892-005-3508-yE-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                Argues that certain moral intuitions, being the products of evolutionary history, ought to be treated with less probative force than is standard. Singer’s empirical argument proceeds from neuroscience instead of surveys.

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                                                                                                                                • Weinberg, Jonathan M. “How to Challenge Intuitions Empirically without Risking Skepticism.” Midwest Studies in Philosophy 31 (2007): 318–343.

                                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4975.2007.00157.xE-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                  Refines the experimentalist critique of armchair philosophy, distinguishing survey-based arguments against traditional philosophical methodology from general skeptical arguments that generalize beyond philosophical intuitions.

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                                                                                                                                  Responses

                                                                                                                                  This section lists some significant responses to skeptical pressure from experimental philosophy. Deutsch (2009) responds in particular to Machery, et al.’s concerns about reference; the other papers listed offer a more general defense against worries from experimental philosophy. Kauppinen 2007 and Sosa 2009 emphasize the limitations of survey results on which many experimental philosophers rely, while Liao 2007, Sosa 2008, and Nagel 2012 defend the use of intuitions more directly. Ichikawa 2012 argues that traditional philosophical methods meet many of the challenges that experimental philosophers have pressed. See also Ludwig 2007 (cited under Defenses). Williamson 2007 includes an argument that experimentalist objections to philosophy would generalize to science. Van Roojen 1999 offers a response to Horowitz 1998 (cited under Theory).

                                                                                                                                  • Deutsch, Max. “Experimental Philosophy and Theory of Reference.” Mind and Language. 24.4 (2009): 112–466.

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                                                                                                                                    Disputes the assumption that standard philosophical practice invokes intuitions as evidence; a response to Machery, et al. 2004 (cited under Data). Cites the importance of facts about reference, instead of intuitions about reference.

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                                                                                                                                    • Ichikawa, Jonathan Jenkins. “Experimentalist Pressure against Traditional Methodology.” Philosophical Psychology 25.5 (2012): 743–765.

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                                                                                                                                      Argues that, contrary to the claim of Weinberg 2007 (cited under Theory), traditional philosophical methods employ resources to detect and correct intuitive errors.

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                                                                                                                                      • Kauppinen, Antti. “The Rise and Fall of Experimental Philosophy.” Philosophical Explorations 10.2 (2007): 95–118.

                                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1080/13869790701305871E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                        Argues that much survey-based experimental philosophy fails to target the relevant phenomena: considered, reflective judgments. Casual surveys are too likely to issue into pragmatic confusions and performance errors.

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                                                                                                                                        • Liao, S. Matthew. “A Defense of Intuition.” Philosophical Studies (2007).

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                                                                                                                                          Argues that one upshot of experimental philosophy is that many intuitions are reliable. Suggests that a treatment of “robust intuitions” can resist the skeptical critique.

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                                                                                                                                          • Nagel, Jennifer. “Intuitions and Experiments: A Defense of the Case Method in Epistemology.” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 85.3 (2012): 495–527.

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                                                                                                                                            Connects epistemic intuitions about cases to general mindreading capacities; argues that extant experimental results do not put considerable pressure against philosophical reliance on intuition.

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                                                                                                                                            • Sosa, Ernest. “Experimental Philosophy and Philosophical Intuition.” In Experimental Philosophy. Edited by Joshua Knobe and Shaun Nichols, 231–240. Oxford University Press, 2008.

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                                                                                                                                              Defends a virtue-theoretic account of philosophical intuition; argues that skeptical arguments from cultural diversity can be explained by attributing to the different cultures different concepts, or different ways of understanding thought experiment probes.

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                                                                                                                                              • Sosa, Ernest. “A Defense of the Use of Intuitions in Philosophy.” In Stich and His Critics. Edited by Dominic Murphy and Michael Bishop, 101–112. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009.

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                                                                                                                                                Defends the use of intuitions in philosophy against objections based on survey results.

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                                                                                                                                                • Van Roojen, Mark. “Reflective Moral Equilibrium and Psychological Theory.” Ethics 109.4 (1999): 846–857.

                                                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1086/233950E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                  Responds to Horowitz’s suggestion that psychological theorizing debunks certain moral intuitions (Horowitz 1998, cited under Theory); such an argument would require independent reason to consider the posited psychological theorizing fallacious.

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                                                                                                                                                  • Williamson, Timothy. The Philosophy of Philosophy. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2007.

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                                                                                                                                                    Defends an antiexceptionalist approach to philosophy: argues that intuitions do not play a distinctive role in philosophy. Widespread statements to the contrary misconstrue proper philosophical practice. Chapter 7 argues that experimentalist pressure against the use of intuitions would apply equally well against standard scientific methodology.

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                                                                                                                                                    Nonskeptical Experimental Philosophy

                                                                                                                                                    Not all experimental philosophy is presented with the intent of undermining armchair methodology. Some work in the field is offered merely as an addition to extant methods: usually an addition that can shed new light on philosophically interesting empirical questions. Knobe and Nichols 2008, Knobe 2007, and Nadelhoffer and Nahimas 2007 make this especially clear. Knobe 2003 presents a widely cited instance of this sort of psychological discovery.

                                                                                                                                                    • Knobe, Joshua. “Intentional Action in Folk Psychology: An Experimental Investigation.” Philosophical Psychology 16.2 (2003): 309–323.

                                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1080/09515080307771E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                      Experimental results reveal that judgments about intentionality of action depend on moral evaluation.

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                                                                                                                                                      • Knobe, Joshua. “Experimental Philosophy and Philosophical Significance.” Philosophical Explorations 10.2 (2007): 119–121.

                                                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1080/13869790701305905E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                        Brief and clear statement of nonskeptical experimental philosophy: traditional philosophy investigated questions about the mind, and experiments are the best way to study those questions.

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                                                                                                                                                        • Knobe, Joshua, and Shaun Nichols. “An Experimental Philosophy Manifesto.” In Experimental Philosophy. Edited by Joshua Knobe and Shaun Nichols, 3–14. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008.

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                                                                                                                                                          An articulation and defense of the relevance of experimental work to philosophy. Emphasizes the philosophical interest of psychological facts and the role of experimental data as a supplement to traditional philosophical theorizing.

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                                                                                                                                                          • Nadelhoffer, Thomas, and Eddy Nahimas. “The Past and Future of Experimental Philosophy.” Philosophical Explorations 10.2 (2007): 123–149.

                                                                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1080/13869790701305921E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                            An articulation of a broader conception of experimental philosophy, emphasizing positive empirical contributions to philosophical questions. Emphasizes the independence of this project from the skeptical one.

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                                                                                                                                                            Thought Experiments

                                                                                                                                                            A ubiquitous tool in philosophy is the thought experiment. How are philosophers able to come to new knowledge by considering imaginary scenarios? Sorensen 1992 emphasizes similarities between philosophical thought experiments and scientific ones; this is likewise the subject of Gendler 2004, Brown 2004, and Norton 2004. Williamson 2005 offers an account of thought experiment judgments in terms of counterfactuals; this is criticized in favor of a more traditional approach in Ichikawa and Jarvis 2009.

                                                                                                                                                            • Brown, James Robert. “Peeking into Plato’s Heaven.” Philosophy of Science 71 (2004): 1126–1138

                                                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.1086/425940E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                              Classic thought experiments discussed. An a prioristic and Platonistic account of thought experiments is proposed. The proving of theorems in mathematics with pictures and diagrams is compared.

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                                                                                                                                                              • Gendler, Tamar Szabó. “Thought Experiments Rethought—and Reperceived.” Philosophy of Science 71 (2004): 1152–1164.

                                                                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1086/425239E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                Emphasizes the uses of thought experiments beyond the straightforwardly rational ones; argues that thought experiments help us to consider problems in different lights.

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                                                                                                                                                                • Gendler, Tamar Szabó. “Philosophical Thought Experiments, Intuitions, and Cognitive Equilibrium.” Midwest Studies in Philosophy 31 (2007): 68–89.

                                                                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4975.2007.00154.xE-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                  Emphasizes the nonrational psychological influence of thought experiment reasoning. Thought experiments are tools to bring about different ways of looking at a question.

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                                                                                                                                                                  • Ichikawa, Jonathan, and Benjamin Jarvis. “Thought-Experiment Intuitions and Truth in Fiction.” Philosophical Studies (2009).

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                                                                                                                                                                    Thought-experiment intuitions are a priori judgments of necessary facts about fictional situations.

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                                                                                                                                                                    • Norton, John D. “On Thought Experiments: Is There More to the Argument?” Philosophy of Science 71 (2004): 1139–1151.

                                                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1086/425238E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                      Defends an empiricist approach to thought experiments in science.

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                                                                                                                                                                      • Sorensen, Roy. Thought Experiments. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992.

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                                                                                                                                                                        Argues that thought experiments invariably take the form of a paradox and that they function in science much as they do in philosophy.

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                                                                                                                                                                        • Williamson, Timothy. “Armchair Philosophy, Metaphysical Modality, and Counterfactual Thinking.” Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 105.1 (2005): 1–23.

                                                                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1111/j.0066-7373.2004.00100.xE-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                          Defends an approach to thought experiments in terms of counterfactuals. Judgments about thought experiment situations (and about possibility and necessity) are a special case of counterfactual reasoning.

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