The Role of Theory Contamination in Intuitions

Southwest Philosophy Review 15 (1):197-204 (1999)
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It is all too common in philosophy to claim that a particular philosophical theory is mistaken because it fails to coincide with most philosophers' or normal inquirers' intuitions as represented in a particular case or counterexample. This suggests, as Alvin Goldman and Joel Pust point out, that our intuitions provide a sort of evidential basis for particular theories. Yet, the question remains as to whether this assessment is correct, and, if it is, whose intuitions (either those trained within the area in question or normal inquirers) are more evidence conferring? Goldman and Pust provide a positive response to the former question and go on to argue that it is normal inquirers' intuitions that will be the most evidence-conferring. In this paper I first explain Goldman and Pust's view of the nature of intuitions and why, on their account, they are to count as evidence. Next, I argue that the evidence-conferring status of intuitions, as Goldman and Pust hold, is inherently flawed due to the inevitability of theory contamination. Also, I argue that intuitions (though theory contaminated) can be evidence-conferring by making an appeal to the intuitions of experts. Thus, intuitions can be counted as evidence, but not in the manner that Goldman and Pust maintain



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James McBain
Pittsburg State University

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