Gödel in Hong Kong


Appeal to intuition has long been one of the core tools, if it can be called that, of the philosophical method. It is intuition, understood as that immediate operation of the mind by which knowledge is obtained without either observation of the world or inference from premises, that both distinguishes the work of the philosopher from that of the scientist, and motivates the familiar accusation that philosophy is a mere “armchair” discipline. Even those philosophers thick-skinned enough to ignore this accusation tend to recognize one deep problem with excessive reliance on the evidence of intuitions: any given intuition, considered in isolation, is only as reliable as the person who has it. But how can we determine that? One obvious way would be to check the intuition against several other intuitions. But then, inevitably, philosophy finds itself drifting into the territory of the social sciences, something the majority of philosophers steadfastly refuse to let happen. This still very comfortable majority has, in the past few years, come under attack by a small cadre of professional philosophers who have dared to engage openly in the heretical practice of empirical inquiry. Their movement, which has come to be called “x-phi” by some of its adherents, proposes to create an experimental branch of the discipline that will challenge the armchair intuitions with which most philosophers have been content to work, by presenting empirical data showing the extent to which laypeople disagree with these intuitions.

more from our own Justin E.H. Smith at n+1 here.