A partial defense of intuition on naturalist grounds

Synthese 187 (2):321-341 (2012)
The debate concerning the role of intuitions in philosophy has been characterized by a fundamental disagreement between two main camps. The first, the autonomists, hold that, due to the use in philosophical investigation of appeals to intuition, most of the central questions of philosophy can in principle be answered by philosophical investigation and argument without relying on the sciences. The second, the naturalists, deny the possibility of a priori knowledge and are skeptical of the role of intuition in providing evidence in philosophical inquiry. In spite of the seemingly stark and deep disagreement between the autonomist and the naturalist, in this paper I will attempt to suggest that there is a way to mount a partial defense of intuition-based philosophical practice on naturalist grounds. As will be seen, doing so will require a number of concessions that will satisfy few autonomists while simultaneously disappointing those naturalists who might have thought that all notions of the a priori had been successfully laid to rest. However, I will argue that the account proposed here will preserve those features of traditional philosophical practice that matter most and better explain the history of successes and failures of that practice, thus answering the worries of the autonomist, and that the rejection of the No A Priori Thesis attendant with the account presented here is indeed demanded by the current theories of our best scientific understanding of the mind, thus pacifying the rabid naturalistic critic of any version of apriorism.
Keywords A priori  Intution  Naturalism  Modularity
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DOI 10.1007/s11229-010-9864-6
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