PHIL 467W/802: Intuitions and Philosophical Methodology

Spring Semester 2013 | Day | Burnaby


INSTRUCTOR: E. Tiffany, WMC 5652 (


From Gettier-style barn facades to out of control trolleys to nefarious neurosurgeons, the use of thought experiments pervades almost all areas of philosophy. Philosophers trot out cases in order to elicit in the reader intuitions that are friendly to the author’s thesis. Such “intuition pumps” are custom-designed to produce a specific intuition so as to further the author’s argument. In some discussions, the appeal to intuition seems to be doing most, if not all, of the argumentative work. Indeed, if one thinks of reflective equilibrium as the methodology of philosophy, then such appeal to intuition or “considered judgments” just is the philosopher’s primary tool of the trade. But should it be? Is the philosopher’s practice of appealing to intuition justified? What is the epistemic significance of intuitions? What is an intuition anyway? And does recent work in experimental philosophy cast doubt on the legitimacy of this widespread philosophic practice?


  • Assorted readings, available online


  • Some of the readings may also be found in: DePaul and Ramsey (Eds.), Rethinking Intuition: The Psychology of Intuition and Its Role in Philosophical Inquiry (New York: Rowman & Littlefield, 1998). I have not ordered this in the bookstore, but some of you may want to purchase it online.


  • Participation -  15%
  • Short paper - 25%
  • Research paper - 60% OR Second short paper - 25% and Final Exam - 35%

Prerequisite (Phil 467W): two 300 division PHIL courses. Phil 467W may be applied to the W requirement.