Susan Stebbing's Intellectualism

Journal for the History of Analytical Philosophy 10 (4) (2022)
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This paper reconstructs Susan Stebbing’s account of intelligent dealing with a problem and defends this account against charges that it relies on a “censurable kind” of intellectualism. This charge was made in Stebbing’s own time by Laird and Wittgenstein. Michael Kremer has recently made the case that Stebbing is also a proximate target of Gilbert Ryle’s attack on intellectualism. This paper argues that Stebbing should indeed be counted as an intellectualist since she holds that intelligent dealing with a problem requires propositional thought. Yet, for Stebbing, thinking is an activity of a whole person and is enabled and constrained by their dispositions. This complex picture of a thinker enables Stebbing’s account to resist arguments targeting certain forms of intellectualism such as Ryle’s regress argument. It also helps her to respond to the charge that she overemphasizes the importance of intellectual failures. On the picture that emerges, Stebbing offers a strikingly modern epistemology that incorporates the social features of a person as well as their purely intellectual features.

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Bryan Pickel
University of Glasgow


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