The explainability of intuitions

Dialectica 58 (1):43–70 (2004)
Abstract
Explaining intuitions in terms of "facts of our natural history" is compatible with rationally trusting them. This compatibilist view is defended in the present paper, focusing upon nomic and essentialist modal intuitions. The opposite, incompatibilist view alleges the following: If basic modal intuitions are due to our cognitive make-up or "imaginative habits" then the epistemologists are left with a mere non-rational feeling of compulsion on the side of the thinker. Intuitions then cannot inform us about modal reality. In contrast, the paper argues that there are several independent sources of justification which make the feeling of compulsion rational: the prima-facie and a priori ones come from the obviousness of our basic modal intuitions and our not being able to imagine things otherwise, others, a posteriori, from the epistemic success of these intuitions. Further, the general scheme of evolutionary learning is reliable, reliability is preserved in the resulting individual's cognitive make-up, and we can come to know this a posteriori. The a posteriori appeal to evolution thus plays a subsidiary role in justification, filling the remaining gap and removing the residual doubt. Explaining modal intuitions is compatible with moderate realism about modality itself.
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