Interpreting Intuitions

  • Marcus McGahhey
  • Neil Van LeeuwenEmail author
Part of the Contributions To Phenomenology book series (CTPH, volume 96)


We argue that many intuitions do not have conscious propositional contents. In particular, many of the intuitions had in response to philosophical thought experiments, like Gettier cases, do not have such contents. They are more like hunches, urgings, murky feelings, and twinges. Our view thus goes against the received view of intuitions in philosophy, which we call Mainstream Propositionalism. Our positive view is that many thought-experimental intuitions are conscious, spontaneous, non-theoretical, non-propositional psychological states that often motivate belief revision, but they require interpretation, in light of background beliefs, before a subject can form a propositional judgment as a consequence of them. We call our view Interpretationalism. We argue (i) that Interpretationalism avoids the problems that beset Mainstream Propositionalism and (ii) that our view meshes well with contemporary cognitive science.


Intuition Thought experiment Proposition Mental state Philosophical method Interpretation 



We would like to thank the audience at the Belief and Intuition workshop held at the University of Antwerp in May 2016, at which Neil Van Leeuwen presented this joint work. We would also like to thank, in particular, James Andow, John Bengson, and Stephen Stich (who was entirely unconvinced by our view) for stimulating exchanges. This work was supported in part by the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellowship that Neil Van Leeuwen received from the European Commission [call identifier: H2020-MSCA-IF-2014; contract number: 659912].


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of California, San DiegoLa JollaUSA
  2. 2.Department of Philosophy and Neuroscience Institute, Georgia State UniversityAtlantaUSA

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