Certainly useless: empiricists’ uncomfortable relationship with intuition

British Journal for the History of Philosophy 31 (4):724-743 (2023)
  Copy   BIBTEX


During the early modern period, a framework broadly attributable to Descartes sought to establish all knowledge on a foundation of indubitable truths that are fully clear and totally certain: intuitions. A powerful challenge to treating these seemingly unassailable intuitions as epistemic foundations is that the only truths which can be known in this fashion are so obvious and useless that they could not produce any other knowledge. Rationalists typically respond to this worry by maintaining that there are substantive intuitive truths. Other natural options are to maintain that tautologous truths can serve as a fit foundation, or to reject this framework entirely. Empiricists like Locke, Hume, Condillac, and Mill opt for these other solutions. While Locke and Hume offer views that revise and refine this framework, Condillac and Mill engage in more radical departures from it. An interesting result of this difference in approach is that we see Locke and Hume subdividing reason between two domains – one in which intuition reigns, and one which is more properly the domain of the senses – while in Condillac and Mill we see two differing approaches – analysis and induction, respectively – to unifying all human reasoning within a single domain.



    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 89,654

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library

Similar books and articles

The empiricists.John Locke, George Berkeley & David Hume (eds.) - 1974 - New York: Anchor Books/Doubleday.
The British Empiricists.Roger Gallie & Stephen Priest - 1991 - Philosophical Quarterly 41 (163):260.
Locke as an Empiricist.Douglas Odegard - 1965 - Philosophy 40 (153):185 - 196.
Locke: Epistemology.Nathan Rockwood - 2021 - Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
The British empiricists: Locke, Berkeley, Hume.John Dunn, A. J. Ayer & J. O. Urmson - 1992 - Oxford: Oxford University Press. Edited by John Dunn & J. O. Urmson.
Kant and the empiricists: understanding understanding.Wayne Waxman - 2005 - New York: Oxford University Press.
How Kant Thought He Could Reach Hume.Charles Goldhaber - 2021 - In Camilla Serck-Hanssen & Beatrix Himmelmann (eds.), The Court of Reason: Proceedings of the 13th International Kant Congress. De Gruyter. pp. 717–726.


Added to PP

15 (#800,440)

6 months
6 (#200,146)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

Lewis Powell
State University of New York, Buffalo

Citations of this work

No citations found.

Add more citations

References found in this work

Analysis.Michael Beaney - 2017 - Routledge.
Cartesian intuition.Elliot Samuel Paul - 2022 - British Journal for the History of Philosophy 31 (4):693-723.

View all 11 references / Add more references