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14 November 2010


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I would agree that when philosophic endeavors are of the type that scientific inquiry can substantiate a hypothesis then intuitive philosophy should take a back seat. But there are also some considerations of cognition that only accord to intuitive philosophy, such as base motivations and cognitive reasoning that leads to some human behavior. Scientific method may forever be obscured from ferreting out the cognitive reasoning process of much of our behavior since humans will more often than not reveal false motivations and intents when the truth of their motivations and intents will will not be appreciated in a favorable light. At such times intuitive methodology might be the only route to go. Admittedly, this might be more in the scope of cognitive sciences than philosophy proper, but the line separating the two seems tenuous at best.

Catarina Dutilh Novaes

Hi Genruk,
I'm not sure I entirely understand what you are saying, but if the point is that humans are prone to 'false motivations and intents', I think that intuition-based methodology is even more susceptible to these issues. One of the advantages of 'going empirical', even though it is of course true that experiments are always theory-laden etc etc, is that there is at least the constraints imposed by reality to our musings :) This being said, I certainly don't think that all philosophical issues should be reduced to empirical analysis. There will always be need for conceptual analysis as well (I talked about this in a previous post).


Hola Catarina. Indeed you mustered out the point of my reply. Your response seems counter intuitive to me, but that is likely due to differing applications of intuitive philosophy for various endeavors. Or maybe it is just my lack of imagination for constructing scientific studies to elucidate honest motivations and intents. The motivation of altruism might serve as an example. I find it almost impossible to create a method of study to elicit cognitive motivations for this behavior in humans. Few people would admit that the main drive to act in an altruistic fashion would be to reveal to others in their community that they in fact should belong, with the altruistic act serving to substantiate their worth to their community (This is of course just my opinion). But then again, I am looking at this subject as a veterinarian and thus am trained to see animals in an empirical fashion, with man as the most painfully obfuscated animal out there. As such, maybe this training has served to blind me of more objective means by which to study abstruse considerations such as human nature. Or then again, maybe I have missed the boat completely, always a likely notion for a buffoon such as myself...

clovis simard


Description : Mon Blog(, présente le développement mathématique de la conscience humaine.





Clovis Simard

Mark N.

I'm not sure to what extent I agree with him, but what do you think of G.E. Moore's version of the argument for why philosophy should strive to minimize counterintuitive conclusions: that philosophical arguments inevitably appeal to intuition as a grounding for part of the argument, unless something is actually a demonstrable mathematical proof or well-established scientific fact (which philosophical theories usually aren't). Therefore, we shouldn't accept arguments that disprove supposedly "naive" intuitions when the argument itself rests on intuitions, especially when the argument rests on weaker intuitions than the ones it's calling into question. Hence his distrust for skepticism about the external world, which aims to question our strong intuition that the external world exists, but through arguments that themselves rely on various kinds of philosophical intuition.

Eric Schliesser

One's person's "counterintuitive conclusion" is the next person's axiom. The problem with Moore's argument is that it is some privileged person (G.E. Moore, etc) that gets to decide what counts as "intuitive" or the content of weaker/stronger than relation. (Thus, this argument is question-begging.) In the hands of Moore this is essentially a Conservative procedure.

Mark Nelson

I certainly believe that, but the alternative, to accept such arguments, doesn't seem to make much sense to me, either: why should we accept an argument based on "philosophical intuition" that aims to question some previously intuitive conclusion? How do we avoid a parlor game where we disprove "naive" intuitions by arbitrarily appealing to other intuitions that we happen to prefer (or hide better)?

Eric Schliesser

But, Mark, if you accept that Moore's argument is question-begging, shouldn't we evaluate each case on its merits?
In some cases one can arrive at "counterintuitive conclusion" from interesting or even well supported (intuitive or not) premises.
We should not be afraid of what you call the parlor game. But sometimes we should understand new arguments that question some previously intuitive conclusion as a form of philosophic education!

Catarina Dutilh Novaes

Well, one conclusion that can be drawn is precisely that our 'intuitions' often end up conflicting with one another, so something's got to give anyway. My main worry is that intuitions acquire this status of 'truths' that cannot be questioned. What if Einstein hadn't been brave enough to explore the highly 'counter-intuitive' consequences of his mirror thought-experiment?

Cameron Brown

Doesn't Einstein's reliance on intuition - central to his so-called 'heuristic method' - support a counter-argument in defence of intuition-based methodology? Very roughly, that while belief bias threatens to keep us from our going beyond what we already know, it is not an unavoidable obstacle; with appropriate training and a certain philosophical perspicaciousness we can indeed learn new, unexpected things. (After all, 32% did recognize that the argument was invalid.)

Accepting that for Einstein a novel intuition of the fundamental symmetry of nature played a strong role in the development of his theories, why deny that something similar can sometimes happen in philosophy? Philosophy seems no more beholden to 'everyday life forms of reasoning' than does science.

Catarina Dutilh Novaes

The trouble is that, in a certain sense, any methodology can be described as 'intuition-based'. If you want to say that Einstein was following something like an intuition-based methodology when formulating special relativity, then it seems to me that the term loses its 'bite' if it is applied to widely different approaches. What I had in mind was more the Moorean reliance on phenomenologically 'obvious' truths. As you said yourself, Einstein made the bold move of privileging a *novel intuition* over older, well-entrenched ones, which already doesn't fit my characterization of intuition-based methodology as doxastically conservative. You may dispute this characterization, but then it may become a merely verbal disagreement.

David Wallace

And more crucially, Einstein didn't suggest that the supposed intuitiveness of his theories was a reason for anyone to accept them as true. They were heuristics in theory *construction*, not theory *justification*.

Catarina Dutilh Novaes

Good point, thanks! It's a fundamental difference between scientific methodology and intuition-based philosophical methodology: appeals to intuition have no justificatory role to play in science.

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