I’d like to get some feedback on an argument. Here’s the sloppy, rough-and-ready outline of the premises.
- Our intuitions and our ability or inability to imagine (i.e., “conceivability“) are contingent upon cognitive capacities.
- Our cognitive capacities are contingent upon our material composition (e.g., the structure and function of our brains [Assumption].
- Our intuitions and ability (or inability) to imagine is contingent upon our material composition [1,2 HS].
- The content and strength of many philosophical premises are contingent on philosophers’ intuitions or ability (or inability) to imagine [Assumption].
- The content and strength of many non-contingent-truth-seeking philosophical arguments are contingent upon the material composition of philosophers [3, 4 HS].
- The content of a non-contingent truth is not contingent upon anything—e.g., the material composition of the philosophers who seek it [Tautology].
- Premises that are contingent upon a truth-seeker’s material composition will be sound if and only iff the truth-seeker’s composition happens to be such that their intuitions and ability (or inability) to imagine can systematically lead them towards non-contingent truths.
- A truth-seeker’s composition will be such that their intuitions and ability (or inability) to imagine can lead them towards non-contengent truths only as a matter of (evolutionary) chance.
- If there exist non-contingent truths, then arguments that appeal to intuition and our ability (or inability) to imagine will lead towards non-contingent truths only as a matter of chance [7, 8 HS].
If our intuitions are reliable in any way, they will only be so by chance. Is this a problem? It is not obvious that it is, especially if it turns out that we do not have other more reliable judgments or methods upon which to rely (e.g., science, logical analysis, conceptual analysis, etc.). Also, it might be that intuitions have nothing to do with truth. After all, truth is probably a metaphysical concept (Laudan, 1996). It should not be surprising that intuitions, which I take to be cultivated and realized by physical processes, would have any bearing on metaphysical stuff. But enough about the conclusion; let’s take a quick look at the premises.
For brevity’s sake, I will not offer arguments for the assumptions (denoted by “[Assumption]“)—nonetheless, feel free to issue counterexamples for them. Aside from the assumptions, I have indicated hypothetical syllogisms with “[...HS]“; I take these inferences to be valid—albeit sloppy and in need or refinement.
With this über-meager defense, I invite you to weigh in.
Laudan, Larry. 1996. Beyond Positivism and Relativism. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, pp. 77-87.