Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences

, Volume 10, Issue 2, pp 175-194

First online:

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

  • Barbara MonteroAffiliated withDepartment of Philosophy, City University of New York Email author 
  • , C. D. A. EvansAffiliated withDepartment of Philosophy, City University of New York

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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