Monday, March 26, 2012

Intuitions as prejudices

Philosophical insights and conclusions are often founded on intuitions, at least partially; even in that degree that some – or maybe many – philosophers think that intuition is one of the main instruments of philosophy, next to conceptual analysis and argumentation. However, as we have seen in my blog dated June 22, 2009, Weinberg, Nichols & Stich have shown in an experiment that epistemic intuitions are not as objective as they were supposed to be, since they differ according to culture and within a culture according to social group (see also my blog last week). Must we not conclude then that at least epistemic intuitions are nothing but a special kind of prejudices? And isn’t it likely then that the same is true for other intuitions? By stating this (for I do state this, because I think that these questions have to be answered affirmatively), I do not want to say that intuitions have to be rejected and that they are of no use in philosophy. I do not say that. It is a prejudice that prejudices are fundamentally false. Prejudices are sometimes false but often they are true. Even more, prejudices can be and often are important and useful guides that lead our actions. Without them we wouldn’t survive, for investigating every new situation we encounter in order to have a founded opinion how to act is simply impossible. And then I ignore that often we just do not have the time to do that, since we have to act now in many cases. Then our prejudices are our action guides and usually they are reliable guides. It is the same for our intuitions. As prejudices they are important and useful in leading our reasoning and often they bring us to the right conclusions. However, this does not need to be so: intuitions are as prejudicial as prejudices are. And if all intuitions were right, how could we explain that they can differ according to social background?

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