Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences

, Volume 10, Issue 2, pp 175–194 | Cite as

Intuitions without concepts lose the game: mindedness in the art of chess

  • Barbara Montero
  • C. D. A. Evans


To gain insight into human nature philosophers often discuss the inferior performance that results from deficits such as blindsight or amnesia. Less often do they look at superior abilities. A notable exception is Herbert Dreyfus who has developed a theory of expertise according to which expert action generally proceeds automatically and unreflectively. We address one of Dreyfus’s primary examples of expertise: chess. At first glance, chess would seem an obvious counterexample to Dreyfus’s view since, clearly, chess experts are engaged in deep strategic thought. However, Dreyfus’s argument is subtle. He accepts that analysis and deliberation play a role in chess, yet he thinks that all such thought is predicated on intuitive, arational expert perception, and action. We argue that even the so-called “intuitive” aspect of chess is rational through and through.


Chess Rationality Intuition Skill Herbert Dreyfus John McDowell Mind Reflection Deliberation Action 



Earlier versions of this paper were presented at Central European University Philosophy colloquium, the City University of New York Cognitive Science Workshop, and the College of Staten Island Philosophy Forum. We thank audience members at these venues for their comments and suggestions. We would also like to thank IM Larry D. Evans for sharing his keen insights at each stage of this paper, and John Sutton for his thoughtful suggestions, as well as GM Hikaru Nakamura, GM John Fedorowicz, GM Nick de Firmian and GM Michael Rohde for their helpful interviews and comments. The first author’s work on this paper was supported, in part, by a Charles A. Ryskamp fellowship from the American Council of Learned Societies.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyCity University of New YorkNew YorkUSA

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