Intuitive and Reflective Responses in Philosophy

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Nick Byrd
University of Colorado
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paper description
Cognitive scientists have revealed systematic errors in human reasoning. There is disagreement about what these errors indicate about human rationality, but one upshot seems clear: human reasoning does not seem to fit traditional views of human rationality. This concern about rationality has made its way through various fields and has recently caught the attention of philosophers. The concern is that if philosophers are prone to systematic errors in reasoning, then the integrity of philosophy would be threatened. In this paper, I present some of the more famous work in cognitive science that has marshaled this concern. Then I present reasons to think that those with training in philosophy will be less prone to certain systematic errors in reasoning. The suggestion is that if philosophers could be shown to be less prone to such errors, then the worries about the integrity of philosophy could be constrained. Then I present evidence that, according to performance on the CRT (Frederick 2005), those who have benefited from training and selection in philosophy are indeed less prone to one kind of systematic error: irrationally arbitrating between intuitive and reflective responses. Nonetheless, philosophers are not entirely immune to this systematic error, and their proclivity for this error is statistically related to their responses to a variety of philosophical questions. So, while the evidence herein puts constraints on the worries about the integrity of philosophy, it by no means eliminates these worries. The conclusion, then, is that the present evidence offers prima facie reasons to ascribe a mitigated privilege to philosophers' ability to rationally arbitrate between intuitive and reflective responses.

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