‘Intuition’ seems to be a word which (many) Philosophers are fond of. ‘Intuition’ seems to be at the heart of Philosophical methodology. Intuitive appeal is often is an important aspect of a Philosophical theory. To suspect that a particular Philosophical position is unintuitive or counter intuitive is to put a burden on the part of the defender of that position to provide an explanation. The idea seems to be that if the Position defended is indeed intuitive, the further explanation provided on demand will show us the intuitive appeal of the position. The idea is that we will be pulled by the intuitive appeal of the position and will accept that the position at issue is plausible. Intuitive appeal is not sufficient for a position to be defended but is, it seems to me, often necessary. We all very well know that there examples and thought experiments in Philosophy which provides conflicting intuitions. As you focus on some feature of the example or thought experiment you seem to tend think towards one direction and as you focus on some other features you tend to think towards the opposite direction. And also, we get pulled towards one direction sometimes and towards the opposite direction some other times. Sometimes we might experience a gestalt switching of intuitions as well.
Intuition appears to be a complex phenomenon and an elusive term as it is hinted above. To complicate the issue further, it seems that there are difficulties with intuitions that we often taken for granted in Philosophy classes. Experimental researches on Gettier Cases suggest that people from different cultural background have different intuitions about the Gettier cases (see the paper Normativity and Epistemic Intuitions in this connection). According to some, gender as well affects one’s philosophical intuition (Click HERE to see a paper which argues in this line. And click HERE to see another paper related to the argument at issue). Gettier cases are thought experiments which are thought to have provided a very clear intuition about whether one possesses knowledge or not in certain situations. Suppose some students in the epistemology class is getting a different intuition from the instructor (instructor is holding the standardly expected intuition). They get this intuition despite of them understanding all the details of the examples/thought experiments provided well. The intuition they get is deviant from what is standardly taken as the right intuition (the intuition which the instructor expects). What do we do? How do you convince these students that it is intuitive that this case is an instance of knowledge/non-knowledge? Or is it required to convince them? If it turns out that standard intuitions are arbitrary, what repercussion it will it have con methodology of Philosophy? Is it the case that so far we were excluding people who do not hold the standard intuition as ‘not good for Philosophy’?
I was thinking about ‘intuition’ after listening to a discussion on this topic which appeared in Philosophy TV. The thrust of the discussion is a follows:
“Empirical evidence collected by Stich and Buckwalter suggests that “standard” intuitions about philosophical thought experiments (e.g. Gettier cases) are more common among men than women. Stich and Gendler examine the merits of this evidence. They consider what might explain gendered differences in intuitions, and whether such differences can help to explain why women are underrepresented in professional philosophy. They also discuss alternative explanations for the gender gap, including the effects of sexism and the shortage of female professors and graduate students to serve as role models for female undergraduates. Finally, they ask why a gender gap has been a larger problem in philosophy than other fields.”
Click HERE to listen the discussion on gender and Philosophical intuition.