Do Different Groups Have Different Epistemic Intuitions? A Reply to Jennifer Nagel
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey; University of Sheffield
August 29, 2011
Intuitions play an important role in contemporary epistemology. Over the last decade, however, experimental philosophers have published a number of studies suggesting that epistemic intuitions may vary in ways that challenge the widespread reliance on intuitions in epistemology. In a recent paper, Jennifer Nagel offers a pair of arguments aimed at showing that epistemic intuitions do not, in fact, vary in problematic ways. One of these arguments relies on a number of claims about the psychological literature on intuitive judgment and on mental state attribution (also known as “theory of mind”, “mindreading” and “folk psychology”). I call this the "theoretical argument". The other argument relies on recent experimental work carried out by Nagel and her collaborators. It is my contention that in setting out her theoretical argument, Nagel offers an account of the relevant scientific literature that is, in crucial respects, both flawed and misleading. My main goal in this paper is to rectify these errors and to make it clear that, once this is done, Nagel’s theoretical argument collapses. Thus her paper provides no support at all for her bold claim that “neither ethnicity nor gender has a significant impact on knowledge ascription in general, nor on epistemologically interesting cases in particular.” In the final section, I offer some critical observations about Nagel’s strategy for dealing with empirical data that does not support her view – both other people’s and her own.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 24
Keywords: experimental philosophy, intuitions, epistemology, mindreading, theory of mind, cultural variationworking papers series
Date posted: August 30, 2011 ; Last revised: September 2, 2011
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