Don't Believe the Hype: Why Should Philosophical Theories Yield to Intuitions?

Teorema: International Journal of Philosophy 34 (3):141-158 (2015)
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Abstract

In this paper, I argue that, contrary to common opinion, a counterexample against a philosophical theory does not amount to conclusive evidence against that theory. Instead, the method of counterexamples allows for the derivation of a disjunction, i.e., ‘either the theory is false or an auxiliary assumption is false’, not a negation of the target theory. This is so because, whenever the method of counterexamples is used in an attempt to refute a philosophical theory, there is a crucial auxiliary assumption that needs to be taken into account. The auxiliary assumption is that making intuitive judgments in response to hypothetical cases about the subject matter in question (e.g., knowledge or proper names) is a good method for finding out truths about that subject matter. Without good reasons to think that this assumption is warranted, the negation of a philosophical theory whose content is alleged to be in conflict with the content of an intuition cannot be justifiably derived using an argument that employs the method of counterexamples.

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Moti Mizrahi
Florida Institute of Technology

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