Monday, 1 October 2012

My Inner Kant that oppresses me

Instead of thought experiments we should try thinking. Working my way back through the older posts of yeahokbutstill I find this observation:
One of the most banal and unsophisticated manoeuvres one can encounter in a modern philosophical discussion is the denial that a theory has to conform to "our intuitions".

"Yeah," someone says, "my theory has results that don't match common intuitions. So what? Who says that I have to cater to your intuitions?"

This move was born out of a certain frustration with mid-20th century "thought experiments" in philosophy, which purported to demonstrate the truth or falsity of some theory by reference to an outlandish thought experiment and to what "we" would "say" about it in light of the theory. To many, it became increasingly clear that this sort of strategy accomplished very little.
philosophical intuition
It used to be that philosophers' fables were rare and where offered were clearly of the nature of nose rings, the better to lead you, but now it seems that students are to be brow beaten for a response. The maieutic method is pressed to the delivery of intuitions. The idea is that if we are divorced from the pressure of the potentially actual we may begin to feel free to get in touch with our intuitions. My inner Kant that oppresses me may be exorcised.

I would be inclined to say that intuitions are direct and immediate responses to the varied situations that we find ourselves. I like to bring in here the notion usually associated with female intuition but not limiting it to that gender where the response is correct and wise without a laborious application of principle. It's as though out of a sufficient range of these responses we discover a principle. It is all rough ore and we extract the gold of principle from it rather than using the golden rule.

This is of course simple and naive. No doubt the gold standard of principle is used by philosophers who can find a good word to say about bestiality and infanticide. Shouldn’t that alert us to the wrongness of that sort of straight line thinking? It doesn’t seem to, at least amongst the majority of the philo-philisophico class.

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