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Is it right to use intuition as evidence?

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Dr. Smith is a wartime medic. Five injured soldiers are in critical need of organ transplants: one needs a heart, two need kidneys, and two need lungs. A sixth soldier has come in complaining of a toothache. Reasoning that it’s better that five people should live than one, Smith knocks out the sixth soldier with anesthetic, chops up his organs, and transplants them into his five other patients. In the chaos of the war, no one ever finds out. Does Smith act wrongly?It seems to me that Smith has done something wrong. This feeling of mine is not the conclusion of any explicit argument. Instead, I just reflect on this situation and find myself with the intuition that Smith’s act is wrong. On this basis, I conclude that morality does not always require us to bring about the best outcome. It is better for five to survive than one, but it’s not permissible to murder someone to bring this outcome about.Here, I use my intuition as evidence for a philosophical claim. I start with a claim about how things seem to me, intuitively, and I move from there to a claim about how things actually are. This is one of the primary ways in which philosophers answer questions about reality and our place in it—we think carefully about hypothetical scenarios or abstract principles, and see what claims then seem to us to be true about whether an action is immoral, or when our actions are free, or what we can know.Or at least, this is the received view about philosophical methodology. In recent years, a number of philosophers—including Timothy Williamson, Herman Cappelen, Max Deutsch, and Jonathan Ichikawa—have challenged this view. It’s not that they think that intuitions aren’t good reasons for philosophical beliefs. They think that we don’t use intuitions as reasons for philosophical beliefs in the first place. These philosophers maintain that in a case like the above, I don’t treat my intuition that Smith has acted wrongly as evidence that morality doesn’t require bringing about the best. . .

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News source: OUPblog » Philosophy

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