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Do philosophical intuitions justify beliefs?
Clarifying the question
Are humanity's innate philosophical intuitions generally/defeasibly reliable? Do they constitute at least some degree of legitimate reason to accept or reject propositions?
- Reliable cognitive faculties = def. those cognitive faculties that have a propensity to recommend to us true beliefs rather than false ones.1
- Defeasible reasoning = def. reasoning that can be defeated, as in invalidated or overturned.2
- There are additional faculties that one might add to the list:
• Alvin Plantinga: “Further, there are introspection, by which I learn such things about myself as that I am appeared to a certain way, and believe this or that; induction, whereby (in a way that defies explicit statement) we come to expect the future to be like the past in certain respects, thereby being able to learn from experience; and Thomas Reid's sympathy, whereby we come to be aware of what other people are thinking, feeling, and believing. Still further, there is testimony or credulity, whereby we learn from others, by believing what they tell us. By sympathy I learn that you are telling me that your name is Archibald; for me to believe you, however, something further is required. (Thus by perception, I see that you are in such and such a bodily state; by sympathy, I learn that you are claiming that your name is Archibald; and by testimony, I believe you.)”[Warranted Christian Belief (Oxford, 2000), 174.]
- If a cognitive faculity is to be considered defeasibly reliable, then for any given deliverances of that faculty (e.g. "the past exists"), said deliverance ought to be accepted unless one is given a specific rebuttal or consideration which undercuts the reliability of said faculty. It is rational to give said faculty benefit of the doubt.
Debates this question affects
If the answer is YES, then it would seems to be that only intuition can save one from the clutches of various philosophical skepticisms about the existence of the past, or an extra-mental world, or other minds, and similar egocentric predicaments. In each case, one simply finds oneself assigning a high prior probability to the “basic belief” in question, and one rationally holds onto these basic unevidenced intuitive beliefs unless and until one encounters a sufficiently compelling new belief which sufficiently undermines it.
It justifies belief that “physical laws are constant”
Our philosophical intuitions can justify (or warrant) belief that law-governed action is elegant, such that the future will be like the past. (That is to say, we are justified/warranted in thinking that something's behaving in way x in the past counts as evidence that it will behave in way x in the future, e.g. that water, quarks, and matter in general will the behave the way they always have.)1 This is relevant because, in order for intuition to generate justification for this belief, they need to be reliable in the relevant way.
- In its most rigorous form, this problem is framed in terms of our expectation of simplicity (E.g. see Collins's “God and the Laws of Nature”). In fact, one can focus generally on this epistemic norm “Everything else being equal, simpler theories are more likely to be true (or empirically adequate) than complex theories" cannot be inferentially justified. So, outside intuition, one cannot get non-circular evidence for these beliefs.
It justifies belief that “x happened in the past”
Our philosophical intuitions can rationally justify belief that the past exists, or that our memory/reasoning in general is reliable. This is relevant because, in order for intuition to generate justification (or warrant) like this, it needs to be reliable in the relevant way.
- That is to say, you believe that you did not come into existence two seconds ago with this unique set of memories and rational faculties you have. Outside intuition, one cannot get non-circular evidence for this belief.
It justifies belief that “x exists outside my mind”
Our philosophical intuitions can justify belief that objects and persons exist outside our own mind.” (These skepticisms are called external world skepticism and solipsism respectively. The idea is, how do you know you're not in a dream-world of your own making, and there is just nothing to wake up to?) This is relevant because, in order for intuition to justify our belief that solipsism is false, it needs to be generally reliable.
- Independent of this evidence, it can be hard to non-circularly justify these beliefs. After all, any observation one could theoretically make could just be part of the solipsistic-like dream.
It justifies belief that “x is conscious”
Only our philosophical intuitions can justify belief that other humans are experiencing a subjective inner-life like ours (with memories, pains etc.). That is to say, our friends and family are not “P-zombies.” P-zombies are not at all like zombies in movies, rather,...
“they are exactly like us in all physical respects [with matching brain states and neurochemical reactions] but without conscious experiences: by definition there is ‘nothing it is like’ to be a zombie. Yet zombies behave just like us, and some even spend a lot of time discussing consciousness.” [Robert Kirk, “Zombies” in The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy][Online](https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/zombies)
This is relevant because, in order for intuition to do this, it needs to be reliable in the relevant way.
It justifies belief that “x is objectively morally wrong”
Our philosophical intuitions can justify (or warrant) belief that certain things are good/evil or right/wrong.1 This is relevant because, in order for intuition to do this, it needs to be reliable in the relevant way.
- For example, the belief that torturing a child for fun is objectively morally wrong seems to be justified in this way.
It justifies belief that “x is possible / x could've occurred.”
Our philosophical intuitions can justify “modal” beliefs—that certain states of affairs are possible (or impossible), as well as counterfactual beliefs about what could have been. This is relevant because, in order for intuition to do this, it needs to be reliable in the relevant way.
We were created by God
God exists (and created us). This is relevant because, if God chose to create us, then creating us with generally reliable cognitive faculties is how God, in his goodness, would most likely choose to create us.