Peter Railton (Michigan): First Steps Toward an Epistemology of Intuition in Ethics
Abstract: Appeals to intuition and intuitions have figured in philosophy at least since Socrates, and in the intervening millennia intuition and intuitions have been put to use for a variety of philosophical purposes, especially, in order to escape worries about regress in perception, thought, and action. Today, the method of appealing to intuitions in thought experiments has become central to many areas of philosophy—though there has been some dissent over whether they are indispensable. It seems to me that they are, and for many of the reasons philosophers in the past have invoked. Yet we have lacked an adequate account of how or why philosophical appeals to intuition might have epistemic authority—even as empirical research has raised a number of concerns about whether intuitions could plausibly bear the weight philosophers place upon them. In this talk I will develop the beginnings of an epistemology of intuition, focusing especially on the case of ethics, and asking what this might tell us about how best to learn from intuitions in practical and theoretical philosophy more generally.