The Battle for Epistemic Privacy


In my email to BonJour, I explicated how epistemic privacy could provide metajustification for the genuineness of an intuition. Then, in my essay “The Logocentric Predicament and Its Solution by way of Second-Order Private Justification,” I explicated how certain intuitions were dependent on others and/or did not meet the standards to be apt for epistemic privacy. I ended with rational intuition and empirical intuition on equal footing in regards to being apt for epistemic privacy. This left us with a moderate rationalist position, not in terms of the BonJourian formulation, but in the Husserlian formulation, in that, both rational and empirical intuitions have epistemic autonomy. We must sort out which one has primacy here. But, before we do that, let us cover a few intuitions we didn’t speak of.

We did not go over modal, axiological, and moral intuition. Modal intuitions have to do with intuitions about the necessity or possibility of a state of affairs. All intuitions into the necessity of things, such as eidetic intuitions, are also modal intuitions. This helps us conclude that modal intuitions are not something on their own, but rather just denote if another intuition has to do with any modal concept, i.e., possibility and/or necessity. If we could prove that necessity was only a priori, then we could easily conclude that the important modal intuitions (the modal intuitions that deal with necessity) could only be rational intuitions. If we did such a thing, then we would have semantic, eidetic, and modal intuitions all under the belt of rational intuition, not only pointing to the rationalist position’s versatility but also its primacy. Axiological intuitions are intuitions of the value of something. Moral intuitions are intuitions of the ethical status of something. Because of this, Erik and I will most probably end up as meta-ethical intuitionists. Though, if axiological and moral intuitions are dependent on empirical intuitions then such a position may be compromised assuming, of course, that rational intuition beats empirical intuition out. One thing that is interesting, though, is that the claim for the private justification of an axiological or moral intuition can actually be checked assuming we can have some rational intuition of an objective moral state of affairs. So, for example, Erik’s solution to the problem of alternatives establishes that logical principles and inference rules are good and that we ought to follow them. Any moral intuition that came into contradiction with the moral obligation to follow logical principles and inference rules could be denied because we would know that 1. the content is contradictory and 2. that they are violating the principle of epistemic honesty. This is useful because we can construct an objective politics that aims to instantiate that objectively moral state of affairs by way of the state (note: Erik and I’s theory of the state and position on politics, in general, has been explicated in private conversation with one another, but we have yet to actually establish anything and provide epistemic justification for it, as we want to first, obviously, establish our epistemology before we try to provide epistemic justification). So, while people are justified in believing in their moral intuitions. If we establish such moral intuitions as seemings (and we will), and do not take to any phenomenal conservate position (and I have no plans to take any such position), then we can essentially disregard moral intuitions in that they have no claim to actuality but only seemingness, i.e., they have no claim to actually being the case and instead only have a claim to seeming to be the case. Hence, they offer no threat to any of our theories of politics based on objective moral principles deduced and intuited a priori (what these objective a priori moral principles actually are will have to be found out when we get to ethics, which may be during or after the summer). In fact, when they come into contradiction with objective facts, they defeat themselves, therefore meaning, even if we take up phenomenology conservatism, we will still have demonstrated how the seeming is not the case. This seemingness also applies to all intuitions, unless a reason for that not to be the case is given, or unless a reason for its genuineness is given or is privately justified with or without a (propositional [and/or inferential]) “reason.” Now, let us move on to the battle between rationalism and empiricism.

Firstly, why even try to prove epistemic asymmetry between rational and empirical intuitions? Simple: I don’t want to be at a standstill. I realized that if a rationalist poses a rational intuitions and derives from it a proposition, and then an empiricist poses an empirical intuition that acts as a defeater to the rational intuitions, the rationalist could counter-pose the same rational intuition as a defeater for the empirical intuition, simply because neither one has primacy over the other. Thus, to avoid standstill and contradiction, one must have some property that makes it have access to epistemic primacy over the other.

First, it has been argued that empirical intuitions only deal with particulars, i.e., particular objects/states of affairs. But, Casullo has argued that rational insights also only deal with particulars. For Casullo, “Whatever the content of a priori justification is, it is particular, and so can’t do any more work than can perception” (Andrew Spear, “Metajustification, Skepticism, and the A Priori, p. 5). The implications of being restricted to particulars is that you can only intuit a particular state of affairs and cannot intuit universal rules or principles. So, for example, let’s say you could intuit modus ponens’ cogency in one case. The fact this intuition arises cannot assert anything beyond it. It cannot be an intuition of the fact that modus ponens is always the case. Could it not be the case, however, that one’s mind has a rational intuition that has some relation to the abstract object that modus ponens really is, and from there rationally intuit its truth, and as a derivative, its universal truth? This is certainly a possibility. Does such a possibility exist for empiricism? Only if a super heterodox interpretation of empirical intuitions is taken up. One would have to be able to empirically intuit concepts, or propositions such as “Modus ponens is always true.” But, we cannot necessarily rule out the possibility that one will have an empirical intuition that has such assertive content. It will just seem that the empiricist is breaking the rule/principle of epistemic honesty. Then again, it could be argued that such a claim as “Modus ponens is always true” is a modal claim as it could be recognized as an intuition of the necessity of modus ponens being the case. If such recognition is fair and valid, then we could possibly raise a restriction for empirical intuitions: if any empiricist makes a claim to having an empirical intuition of the necessity of something then they are lying because only rational intuitions can intuit the necessity of something. Thus, we could argue that because of the public explication of their claim that they empirical intuited a relation/property of necessity, we would therefore not be in a position of question-begging or of being categorically erroneous in denying that they had such an empirical intuition. We would not be in such a position because if they say they had an empirical intuition of something and said something has a property, relation, or modality, such as necessity, that empirical intuitions cannot have, then we can know they had no empirical intuition of such a thing. While rational intuitions both have a claim to intuiting the modal necessity and possibility of things, empirical intuitions do not have a claim to intuiting such things, in that they must infer from their intuition that because they had an intuition of something that it is possible. There seems to be no real case for the necessary a posteriori. What this means is that empirical intuitions cannot deal with logic, because logic is always logically necessary, by definition. Therefore, empirical intuitions cannot intuit a “defeater” for the logocentric predicament, because to say that logic is the case in a single instance, i.e., within the context of a single particular, is to say that it is logically necessary that logic is the case in this instance, simply because logic is logically necessary, by definition, therefore meaning having logic as the subject of the intuition automatically makes such an intuition a modal intuition of necessity.

If we enumerate more requirements for aptness for epistemic privacy, we may finally be able to discount one of the two forms of intuitions and even some subforms of intuitions. So, first, the intuition must be non-propositional and non-inferential. Inferences aren’t necessarily propositional, but there is no reason why inferences can’t be questioned. Furthermore, inferences imply the fact that a conclusion was inferred from something. We can therefore ask them if this something is non-inferential, if it is, then they meet the non-inferential requirement, but, if it is not, then a regress begins because we can then ask them about either the inference itself or the premises. And, more than that, if the premises are not non-propositional and are, in fact, propositional, then vicious circularity will inevitably arise. Let us also note, that, in a certain sense, inferences are, by definition, public demonstrations. Thus, they categorically cannot be apt for private justification, therefore meaning non-inferentiality is required for a non-propositional intuition to be apt for private justification, for if it has the property of inferentiality, then a public inference is connected to it that can be questioned. Are there any more requirements? Yes: epistemic atomism.

Epistemic atomism, as I’m calling it, only denotes the atomistic character of certain intuitions, like rational intuitions for example. There is no justificatory rule for rational intuitions. Just because an intuition is a rational intuition does not entitle someone to hold prima facie justification, or rather, there is no clear reason why they have such epistemic entitlement, and almost all attempts at garnering such a reason usually end up in vicious circularity or end up begging the question. Nonetheless, there are intuitions that operate off a rule, such as divine intuition. Divine intuition is not epistemically atomisitic, i.e., the full content for its justification is not contained completely in itself, but also in God. Thus, we can question God. Many see questioning God as inherently fallacious, but this is only because of the meaning of God, therefore meaning the theist does not have at their foundation divine intuitions but rather semantic intuitions, which is a form of a priori, i.e., rational intuition. Thus, the theist must be a rationalist or moderate empiricist, and if either rationalism or moderate empiricism entails God’s non-existence, they must either accept contradiction or abandon their dogmas and false convictions. Again, divine intuition is only truth-conducive because of divine confirmation. Thus, it isn’t atomistic because it is regulated by a rule that can be propositionally explicated: if subject S has intuition i of proposition p then it is justified in believing p because of i but iff God gives S i, thus confirming the truth conduciveness of i. Some may argue that this applies equally to rational intuition when people speak of the light of reason, but this is not the case, for the rational intuitions themselves are the light of reason, and divine intuitions certainly aren’t God, unless the theist wants to claim that without subjects that can intuit things God could not exist. Furthermore, divine intuitions are certainly products of God. They may certainly be “a part” of God, just as all things are. But God’s existence is not at all contigent on divine intuitions. Now, it could be argued that rational intuition is dependent on abstract objects (assuming Platonism) and that empirical intuitions are dependent on physical objects (assuming a causal theory of perception). This could be argued, but it in no way would be an argument against the thesis that empirical and rational intution are both apt for epistemic privacy because the truth conduciveness is not dependent on abstract objects or perception causally induced by way of physical objects impressing themselves upon the mind by way of sense data, leading to our mind’s faculty of sensibility garnering an empirical intuition of a particular state of affairs. The content for the genuine truth of the intuition is contained wholly in the intuition. Furthermore, in reference to what was said above about semantic intuitions. If we are able to discount semantic and empirical intuitions then there will be no possible way to justify the Christian faith or any other faith for that matter, because, while one could possibly give an a priori proof for God, one could not appeal to the empirical nature of these religions, i.e., Jesus as a historical figure and the Bible as a text that records past observed states of affairs. And one could not appeal to God being all powerful therefore meaning the truth conducive nature is guaranteed, or rather that God has the intent to make such intuition actually truth conducive. Now, it has been argued by some of my theist friends that one could potentially attempt to prove the Christian faith a priori by way of providing a proof for God’s ontological nature to necessarily be a trinity. The justification of such an argument would be surprising in itself, but, nonetheless, it would confirm what these Christians are after, for contained in their assertion that such a proof would prove the Christian faith is a fallacious appeal to ignorance, as the Christian would be supposing that only the Christian faith has claim to a trinitarian ontology of God. Why other religious faiths could not have such an ontology of God is not clear and that there aren’t other religions that have such an ontology is also not known to be the case and is most probably not the case. Furthermore, they would have to give a rationally intuitable a priori proof for the claim that the Christian faith necessarily is the only religion that can have claim to such an ontology. Such a proof seems unachieveable simply in light of the fact that I can conceive of a slightly modified version of Christianity where Jesus is not the central figure that still has a trinitarian conception of God, therefore meaning there is no conceivable necessity of what the Christian theist must prove there is. All in all, it seems that the theistic epistemology of intuitions is either circular, infintiely regressive, or just flat out question begging from the start.

Non-propositionality, non-inferenitality, and atomism are all thus far the criteria of epistemic privacy. Both empirical and rational intuitions get around these. Though, while eidetic intuition and modal intuition most definitely meet all the criteria of epistemic privacy, semantic intuitions may not. Thus, we are to pursue that here, and begin our critique of the a priori, for if we just critique the a posteriori, then we will be blinded by dogmatism. The critique of certain subforms of rational intuition must begin here.

Semantic intuitions are bound up with analyticity and are usually used by empiricsts to claim access to the a priori while not conceding to the existence of the synthetic a priori. If we are able to critique semantic intuitions then we would be able to argue that any empiricist who wants to have any claim to the a priori must concede to the existence of synthetic a priori intuitions which is the main claim of moderate rationalism, therefore meaning the empiricist would have to become at the very least a moderate rationalist to have any claim to the a priori. We are to attempt to create the grounds for asserting such as thing for it will narrow the debate down to the positions of extreme and moderate rationalism and then just extreme empiricism, as we will have eliminated moderate empiricism. Furthermore, let is be observed that the result of the symmetry thesis, the thesis that says rational and empirical intuitions are epistemically symmetrical in their aptness for private justification is exactly what must be critiqued to escape the philosophical halt the symmetry thesis brings us to. The symmetry thesis needs to be critiqued and denied, for if it is not then philosophy will be at a literal standstill and no more real development can come out of it. What this all means then is that we will have to take up either the extreme rationalist or empricist position. This is just the necessary fact of the matter. Dogmatism obviously turns us toward the moderate rationalist position, but dogmatism cannot lead us. We understand that for philosophy to really continue either extreme rationalism or empiricism must be taken up, and the only way for us to do such a thing is demonstrate how one or the other has no claim to epistemic privacy. This is the epistemological contest we are facilitating and observing, and it is a necessary war that is only a single battle.

The conception of analyticity being posed here is “true by virtue of meaning.” This is obviously the necessary notion of analyticity in the context of semantic intuitions as the relation between meaning and analyticity is necessary for a semantic intuition to be just that: a semantic intuition. Thus, if we are able to either a.) show how such a conception of analyticity “fails” or b.) how such a conception of analyticity does not explain how semantic intuitions are different from eidetic intuitions, then we will have achieved our goal of showing how the moderate empiricist position is untenable. The only way we could show “a.)” would be to critique semantic intuition in the same manner as we critiqued divine intuition. Now, quickly, let us note that eidetic intuition is modal, in that, it is a direct insight into a necessary structure of reality, therefore meaning, if we can demonstrate how semantic intuition is a subform of eidetic intuition, then we will have demonstrated how rational intuition is a single unified notion, that notion being synthetic a priori intuitions. And, if we can demonstrate how only the a priori has a claim to necessity, then modal intuitions of necessity and thus impossibility and therefore possibility are a priori intuitions, therefore making the picture painted only bleaker for the extreme empiricist, for all the extreme empiricist will have a claim to is direct percepts, for intellectual intuition’s aptness for epistemic privacy is dependent on empirical intuition’s aptness for epistemic privacy. So, let us begin with the critique of analyticity and semantic intuitions.

Analyiticity cannot be about the subject-predicate relation because of the fact that it supposes, as Godron Hawkes points out, the law of identity. Hawkes says, “Second, and more significantly for the present purpose, if this definition of ‘analytic’ is to qualify as a successful explanation of the a priori justification and necessity of all logical principles, it must not presuppose, either explicitly or implicitly, any logical principles in the definition. However, the definition appears to rely implicitly on the law of identity (‘A = A’). Also, this definition assumes something like the logical principle that ‘all FGH are F’. Thus, the subject-predicate containment definition is not adequate to account for all logical principles” (Hawkes, The Argument from Logical Principles Against Materialism, pp. 146–147). Now, while we aren’t making the same conclusions as Hawkes, what we are doing is pointing out the fact that because such a conception of analyitcity is dependent on the law of identity, therefore meaning semantic intuition is too, semantic intuitions, on this account of analyticity, would not meet the required criterion of epistemic atomism, therefore discounting semantic intuition from any claim to being apt for epistemic privacy.

The next conception of analyticity holds that a propostion is analytic if its negation entails a contradiction. Falseness in virtue of contradiction is analogous to truth in virtue of non-contradiciton, which can be expressed by the law of non-contradiction, therefore making this definition of analyticity either propostionally explicable in the form of the law of non-contradiction itself meaning semantic intuitions have no shot at claiming aptness for epistemic privacy, or it is not epistemically atomistic and is regulated by such a law just as divine intuition is regulated by God. Hawkes says, “This definition of analyticity … cannot be taken as an account of the necessity and a priori justification of the logical principles that it includes in its definition, for instance, the law of non-contradiction, which holds that a statement that expresses a contradiction (‘A and not A’) is alway false. That logical truth is invoked in this definition of analyticity, and so cannot be explained by it” (Hawkes, The Argument from Logical Principles Against Materialism, p. 147).

Lastly, there is the definition of analyitcity that holds that analytic truths are logical truths. The obvious issue with this is that “[t]he depednece is the wrong way around. Some other account would still need to be given of the necessity and a priori justification of the logical truths themselves” (Hawkes, The Argument from Logical Principles Against Materialism, p. 148). These are reductive conceptions of analyticity. BonJour explains, these understandings of analyticity explain “the a priori epistemic justification of some propositions by appeal to that of other propositions” (Hawkes, The Argument from Logical Principles Against Materialism, p. 149). Thus, these conceptions of analyticity would cause semantic intuitions to not meet the epistemic atomism requirement rendering them out of the picture. Thus, the only seemingly tenable understanding of analyticity is truth in virtue of meaning.

Is this account of analyticity as truth in virtue of meaning tenable? If it is not then the a priori will be unified under the single concept of synthetic a priori intuitions, i.e., rational insight. Rational intuitions will be rational insights, in the sense BonJour uses the term, and the seeming division thus far held between the two will collapse.

Just like divine is put in front of divine intuition, semantic is, obviously, in front of semantic intuition. Furthermore, if the truth conduciveness of the semantic intuition is based on the understanding of meaning, then if there are preconditions for understanding, then semantic intuition is contingent, obviously, on those preconditions. Thus, when Thomas Nagel aruges, in his book The Last Word, that the ability of understanding meaning supposes knowledge of logic, then, of course, semantic intuition would become dependent on rational insight, for semantic intuition could not put forward an understanding of logic, if such an understanding was a precondition for its own truth conduciveness (Hawkes, The Argument from Logical Principles Against Materialism, pp. 153–154). Therefore, while semantic intuition, by this account, would not be ruled out, it could not be privately justified because it wouldn’t meet the atomistic constraint, or, at least, even if knowledge of logic could be garnered (and we argue it can by way of rational insight), no semantic intuition could act as a defeater for a rational insight, and extreme rationalism would have to be taken up for such a thing. And, in a certain sense, the semantic intuitions could just be seen as a propositional premises that are deduced from those derivative insights from basic and primary rational insights. To summarize, just like divine intuitions collapse into rule-circularity, semantic intuition publicly denotes by way of the word semantic that metasemantic and presemantic presuppositions have been made.

Now, the only difference between divine and semantic intuition on this front is the fact that semantic intuition can still find easy justification. No one is denying that you really have had a genuine semantic intuition, rather, what we are denying is that the semantic intuition is apt for a claim to its private justification. But, it is still certainly possible that you had this semantic intuition as long as it is admitted that a rational insight into logic being the case predated such a thing.

Next, let see if a priori intuitions are always necessary intuitions, because if so, then, with semantic intuitions gone (or, at least, put on the back burner [as they are dependent on rational insight]), rational intuition would have to be synthetic a priori, thus brining the debate down to extreme rationalism vs. extreme empiricism. Furthermore, if we are able to demonstrate that only rational intuiton has a claim to necessity, then that will further restrict the claims to private justification of certain empirical intuitions that empiricists. For example, let us say that an empiricist makes a claim to having an empirical intuition of a state of affairs and its necessity. If we know that such an intuition must be a priori, then we know that the empiricist is not only violating the principle of epistemic honesty, but also that they did not actually have such an intuition, and that, in fact, no one could have such an intuition, for such a state of affairs is not only not intuitable but also not possible.

In regards to modal intuitions, there can be no foundational modal intuition of possibility, for the very paradigm of possibility and impossibility in the context of possible worlds. The reason there can be no foundational modal intuition of possibility is precisely the same as semantic intuition and divine intuition. First, when I say I have a modal intuition of the possibility of state of affairs, x, and its possibility, I publicly state the such a thing, obviously. The concept of modal possibility, however, is predicated on the law of contradiction, for modal (im)possibility is precisely guaged by if a contradiction exists within the state of affairs. This is denoted by the very fact of the public statement “I have just had a modal intuition of the possibility of x.” As Louis Kattsoff says in “Is Eidetic Intuition Necessary?” “this construction [of a possible world with a specified state of affairs] must be shown to be a possible one and this can mean only that no contradictions arise in the imaginative construction. The law of [non-]contradiction is fundamental” (p. 564). The truth conduciveness of modal intuitions of possibility is dependent on the law of non-contradiction. Therefore, modal intuitions of possibility do not meet the atomistic requirement for aptness for a claim to epistemic privacy, precisely because we know that if the law of non-contradiciton cannot be proven to be the case, then this modal intuition of possibility means “nothing.” This is very important, because it discounts both the rationalist and empiricist claim to intuiting the possibility of something. Obviously, this also makes modal intuitions of possibility depedent on that form of intuition that can intuit the truth of the law of non-contradiciton. Thus, it seems the subject that intuits the possibility of something must either abandon the claim that they had such an intuition, or that it was, at least, genuine, or they must take up rational insight or empirical intuitions.

Let us also note that while what we have just concluded doesn’t get rid of modal arguments for the existence of God, it does not give them justification from the get-go, and if rational insights have an atheistic character and deny the existence of God, then such arguments are necessarily false because modal intuitions of necessity come before modal intuitions of possibility. All in all, it seems that what we have concluded thus far is not very friendly to epistemic claims of theists. Whether that is indicative of anything is yet to be seen, however.

Let us now look at modal intuitions of necessity. Modal intuitions of necessity are not dependent on the law of non-contradiction precisely because of the fact that not all possible states of affairs, and they are possible because they contain no contradiction, are necessary states of affairs. Thus, (a rational insight of) necessity is not contingent on any primitive logical law. It seems that there is no reason to believe modal necessity is dependent on anything like divine intuitions, semantic intuitions, and modal intuitions of possibility are. Then again, it could be argued that necessity means it is impossible for something to not be the case. Would this not pull necessity from being pulled into the failure that modal intuitions of possibility fell into? I wouldn’t say so because we can formulate necessity in multiple ways, and in this way contradiction isn’t necessary to all modal intuitions of necessity. For example, it can simply be understood that x must be the case, i.e., is necessary, because of “the light of reason.” The reason that the law of non-contradiction is necessarily the case is not because of itself, i.e., it is not because contradictory things cannot be the case, because that would be circular, but rather because of an insight into its essential nature, into its essence, by way of eidetic intuition.

Now, whether the contingent a priori exists is of no matter to Erik and I, for as long sa at least one necessary a priori truth exists, rational insight is secured. But, we are to try to go the extra-mile and demonstrate how all modal intuitions of necessity must be a priori. If we can do such a thing, then foundational rational intuitions can only be rational insights, in the way BonJour outlines them. Once we unify the notion of foundation rational intuitions under the heading of rational insight, we can go against the Husserlian formulation of moderate rationalism, and demonstrate how only either the a priori or the a posteriori has a claim to epistemic privacy. Once we do that, and deny the symmetry thesis, then we will either take up the extreme rationalist position, which holds that all knowledge can only come by way of rational intuition, or what I call the strong rationalist position, which holds that there is an epistemic asymmetry between rational and empirical intuition and that it is the former that has epistemic primacy over the latter, therefore meaning empirical intuitions cannot serve as defeaters for rational intuitions, which is contrary to both the Husserlian and BonJourian formulation of moderate rationalism. Or, in disproving the symmetry thesis, we could end up with either strong or extreme empiricism. Now, I find it hard to see how the strong empiricist position could really exist (obviously it would entail epistemic primacy of empirical intuitions over rational intuitions but not totally discount rational intuitions), but we will not prima facie reject it just because we do not currently know how such a conclusion could be reached.

Thus, what is left for us is to begin to enumerate differences between rational insights and empirical intuitions. If we can prove that only the a priori has a claim to modal necessity, then we will have proven the modality argument, but even if we did such a thing (and we will, at the very least, try to) that would not necessarily count out empirical intuitions because there could be no justification for saying that empirical intuitions are intuitions of possibility, though it could certainly be inferred from the fact that one has empirical intuition of something that it is therefore possible, it is not necessarily the case that the empirical intuition is itself an intuition into the possibility of the state of affairs that is experientally perceived. So, let us now begin with the modality argument, which will unify the notion of foundational rational intuitions under the banner of rational insight, and then once we do that let us secure the notion of the a priori and its claim to epistemic privacy. Let us then do the same thing with empirical intuitions. If we cannot secure the a priori, then the empricist position will be taken up. If we cannot secure the a posteriori, then the rationalist position will be taken up. And if we cannot secure either, then neither will be taken up, and total skepticism will not only be admitted but the unsolvable nature of the logocentric predicament will also have to be admitted, leaving philosophy finished in that it never even started.

So, for the modality argument. I am going to give more my thoughts and conjecture than any attempt at a total conclusion on the matter because it seems that unless we, from the get-go, discount the a posteriori’s purchase on modal necessity in a question begging manner, it seems we cannot conclude that necessity necessarily is a priori. Though, who knows, we may be able to do such a thing.

I want to first give my thoughts on Kripke’s desk example. The example goes that if desk a exists then it has the property of being made out of wood F, thus it is necessary that the desk is made out of wood in all worlds it exists in, or, □(F(a)). I am very hesitant with such a thing though. It depends on how we look at necessity. The desk’s existence isn’t the case in all possible worlds, but in all possible worlds in which exists it is made out of wood. In this way, I’d say that the object that is empirically intuited is not a necessary part of reality, but rather that the proposition “If a then □(F(a))” as an abstract object is a necessary part of the very structure of reality. The question then becomes, “Because the subject, a, of the proposition was empirical intuitied, does that mean the proposition itself was empirically intuitied?” It seems odd to say that we can have a sense percept of propositions and concepts.

Really quickly, I actually want to engage in a revision here. It seems I was wrong to claim that the truth conduciveness of modal intuitions of possibility is dependent on the law of non-contradiction. I could intuit that it is possible for my brother to be a monkey. Which would be to say, I have intuited that there is no contradiction contianed within the state of affairs that is my brother being a monkey actually being the case. Even if something can both be and not be, there is no reason why my intuition that it there is a possibility of my brother being a monkey is not truth conducive. But, once the law of non-contradiction is rationally intuited, then it will regulate this whole business of possible worlds. Thus, we have opened up the possibility once more of modal intuitions in general having the right to claim aptness for epistemic privacy. Where this leads us, however, is not very different from before. Can empirical intuitions make claim to confering knowledge of the modality of something to a subject?

So, now we are no longer just arguing that the a posteriori has no claim of knowing necessity, but also that it has no claim to knowing possibility. Here is the dilemma:


A.) I have an empirical intuition of something and infer its modal status as (im)possible/(un)necessary


B.) I have an empirical intuition of something and cannot infer its modal status as (im)possible/(un)necessary a posteriori

How could option B be the case? If inference rules cannot be intuited to be the case a posteriori then B would be the case, because the inference rules would have to be intuited a priori, therefore meaning knowledge of modality would be contingent not on the a posteriori but on the a priori. Option A could only be the case if inference rules are empirically intuitable. Now, could one intuit the modal status of something a posteriori? Does it really matter? No. We still have created the binary of either extreme rationalism or empiricism, thus, let us try and settle that debate.

Instead of starting with a brash supposition of a divide between a priori and a posteriori intuition, let us be very careful. Definitionally, the difference between the two is the presence of experience. In this sense, a posteriori or empirical intuitions are intuitions that arise due to perceptual experience, whereas, a priori or rational intuitions are intuitions that arise independent of our perceptual experience. Let us understand that the fact that rational intuitions are a priori, that is, without experience, certainly, prima facie, bolsters the rationalist position precisely because there is less of a possibility of falling out of epistemic atomism and falling into being regulated by some rule. In other words, assuming both rational and empirical intuitions arise by way of some faculty, both have the same epistemic status, i.e., knowing just this fact, they are functionally analogous and in no way can one have epistemic primacy over the other, but once it is also realized that empirical intuitions are a posteriori, that is, with experience, a greater possibility for a discovery of empirical intuition’s loss of an epistemically atomistic character arises precisely because the addition of experience. Now, the Husserlian conception of rational intuitions holds that it is a type of perceptual experience. So, this would seemingly even out the any possible difference between the two therefore proving the symmetry thesis, no? Well, let us find out.

[ask what it means to have a genuine empirical intuition vs. a genuine rational intuition]

[see if conceptual content (i.e., conceptualism) is apt for private justification / see if being a conceptualist or a non-conceptualist has anything to do with private justification]

I do want to address axiological intuitions. These are intuitions that assert things like, “x makes me sad,”y makes me nauseous,” “z makes me feel good,” or “p is beautiful.” These are not at all restricted to the empirical, contrary to most thought. For example, let us suppose for one moment that Platonism is true and mathematics “is a priori.” Mathematical beauty exists. Euler’s identity itself would exist as an abstract object, and it is considered “the most beautiful equation.” Thus, there are most definitely a priori axiological intuitions. Therefore, they have no bearing on our present analysis, for, like modal intuitions, they can both be a priori and a posteriori (we have yet to do much analysis on modal intuitions beyond their status in regards to private justification, so we will have to do that later, if at all). Let us note that, like modal intuitions, there seems to be no issue with axiological intuitions claiming to be justified privately. Quickly, let us also note that certain numbers induce in some people strange emotions.

Let us understand that any proposition such as “I have the empirical intuition of a table before me,” or “I perceive a table before me” is not at all the entire content of a sense percept. The empirical intuition may contain within it multiple objects. For example, I currently recognize that I am perceiving my computer before me with chip bags to its right and books its left and behind it; furthermore, I recognize that this laptop is on my dining room table which is in my dining room which has three lights in it, and so on. The object of an empirical intuition is not the laptop, the light(s), the table, nor the room. Rather, an empirical intuition has as its object an entire scene. I do not perceive just an object and its properties, instead I perceive a object, my computer, bound up in relation to multiple other objects, the room and the rest of its contents. Furthermore, I feel my arm on my knee and my foot on my chair. I don’t smell anything particular. I taste my mouth. I hear music playing from my headphones and I hear my deep breaths. All of this works in tandem and is nothing less than the entire scene of my sense percept, it is altogether a single object of my empirical intuition. As for the perception of properties, how could we begin to even identify properties without first reflecting on the sense percept and the objects within it and thus inferring from the fact that I intuit the light to be bright, that is really has the property of brightness. In a certain sense, those objects within the entire scene that is my singular object of empirical intuition are properties of the entire scene. The single object of my empirical intuition has the property of having three electrical lights in it. Then again, do I really infer that these object are there? Or do I reflect on the empirical intuition and realize its specific detailed contents? For, if it is inferential then my clarification of my empirical intuition will be able to be questioned. But, if it is not inferential then it can possibly be apt for a claim to private justification.

It is through reflection that the entire scene that is the singular object of my sense percept which is itself my empirical intuition of the entire scene is clarified. Objects, properties, relations, etc. are all realized through reflection. This is not necessarily an inferential process, though it can be, and reflection itself can be made up of propositions, i.e., it can be a reflection on propositions, but the reflection itself is not propositional. Therefore, reflection can qualify for private justification, not as a mechanism of justification for things, but rather as a vindicated method of clarification of our empirical intuitions and some of our rational intuitions.

Could we argue that empirical intuitions are a seeing as rather than a seeing that? I see my laptop as being in front of me, rather than seeing that it is in front of me if that makes sense. Would this not apply to rational intuition as well?

[consider mathematical intuition and the argument against an empirical or linguistic foundation for math in After Godel]

Could we not argue that because my argument against semantic intuition was metaphysical rather than epistemological, we could counterpose something like Robert Hanna’s logical faculty thesis against it and be perfectly fine in that the logical faculty thesis would allow us to understand logic without knowledge of it, which would take out our critique of semantic intuitions. Thus, what we need is to elaborate another criterion for epistemic privacy.



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Evan Jack

Evan Jack

How sweet terror is, not a single line, or a ray of morning sunlight fails to contain the sweetness of anguish. - Georges Bataille