Philosophical Studies

, Volume 173, Issue 10, pp 2701–2726 | Cite as

Intuitive expertise and intuitions about knowledge

  • Joachim HorvathEmail author
  • Alex Wiegmann


Experimental restrictionists have challenged philosophers’ reliance on intuitions about thought experiment cases based on experimental findings. According to the expertise defense, only the intuitions of philosophical experts count—yet the bulk of experimental philosophy consists in studies with lay people. In this paper, we argue that direct (experimental) strategies for assessing the expertise defense are preferable to indirect (inductive) strategies. A direct argument in support of the expertise defense would have to show: first, that there is a significant difference between expert and lay intuitions; second, that expert intuitions are superior to lay intuitions; and third, that expert intuitions accord with the relevant philosophical consensus. At present, there is only little experimental evidence that bears on these issues. To advance the debate, we conducted two new experiments on intuitions about knowledge with experts and lay people. Our results suggest that the intuitions of epistemological experts are superior in some respects, but they also pose an unexpected challenge to the expertise defense. Most strikingly, we found that even epistemological experts tend to ascribe knowledge in fake-barn-style cases. This suggests that philosophy, as a discipline, might fail to adequately map the intuitions of its expert practitioners onto a disciplinary consensus.


Intuitions Thought experiments Knowledge Expertise defense Intuitive expertise Experimental philosophy Experimental restrictionism 



We would like to thank Joshua Alexander, James Andow, Steve Clark, Jens Kipper, Shen-yi Liao, Aaron Meskin, Jonas Nagel, Eddy Nahmias, Jennifer Nado, Martin Peterson, Hannes Rusch, Joshua Sheperd, Jonathan Weinberg, and three anonymous reviewers for very helpful comments and discussions. Thanks also to our audiences at the lecture series GedankenexperimenteKann man aus dem Lehnstuhl die Welt erforschen? at Universität Zürich in May 2014, the X-Phi Workshop Vienna at Universität Wien in June 2014, the conference Möglichkeiten und Grenzen der Experimentellen Philosophie at Philipps Universität Marburg in June 2014, and the conference Investigating the Nature and our Understanding of Causality, Morality, Language, Mind, and Aesthetics—the inaugural meeting of the Experimental Philosophy Group Germany—at Ruhr-Universität Bochum in November 2015. Alex Wiegmann was supported by a grant of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG WA 621/21-2).


  1. Alexander, J. (2012). Experimental philosophy: An introduction. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  2. Alexander, J., Mallon, R., & Weinberg, J. (2009). Accentuate the negative. Review of Philosophy and Psychology, 1(2), 297–314.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Alexander, J., & Weinberg, J. (2007). Analytic epistemology and experimental philosophy. Philosophy Compass, 2, 56–80.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Andow, J. (2015). Expecting moral philosophers to be reliable. Dialectica, 69(2), 205–220.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Armor, D. A. (1998). The illusion of objectivity: A bias in the perception of freedom from bias. Los Angeles: UCLA.Google Scholar
  6. Baron, J., & Hershey, J. C. (1988). Outcome bias in decision evaluation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 54(4), 569–579.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bengson, J. (2013). Experimental attacks on intuitions and answers. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 86(3), 495–532.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bengson, J. (2014). How philosophers use intuition and “intuition”. Philosophical Studies, 171(3), 555–576.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Boghossian, P. (2014). Philosophy without intuitions? A reply to Cappelen. Analytic Philosophy, 55(4), 368–381.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Brogaard, B. (2014). Intuitions as intellectual seemings. Analytic Philosophy, 55(4), 382–393.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Buckwalter, W. (2014). Intuition fail: Philosophical activity and the limits of expertise. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research. doi: 10.1111/phpr.12147.Google Scholar
  12. Cappelen, H. (2012). Philosophy without intuitions. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Cappelen, H. (2014). X-Phi without intuitions? In A. R. Booth & D. P. Rowbottom (Eds.), Intuitions (pp. 269–286). Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Carter, J. A., Peterson, M., & van Bezooijen, B. (2015). Not knowing a cat is a cat: Analyticity and knowledge ascriptions. Review of Philosophy and Psychology. doi: 10.1007/s13164-015-0279-7.Google Scholar
  15. Carter, J. A., Pritchard, D., & Sheperd, J. (ms). Knowledge-how, understanding-why and epistemic luck: An experimental study.Google Scholar
  16. Chalmers, D. (2014). Intuitions in philosophy: A minimal defense. Philosophical Studies, 171(3), 535–544.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Chi, M. (1978). Knowledge structures and memory development. In R. Siegler (Ed.), Children’s thinking: What develops? (pp. 73–96). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Inc.Google Scholar
  18. Clark, M. (1963). Knowledge and grounds: A comment on Mr. Gettier’s paper. Analysis, 24(2), 46–48.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Clarke, S. (2013). Intuitions as evidence, philosophical expertise and the developmental challenge. Philosophical Papers, 42(2), 175–207.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Cokely, E., & Feltz, A. (2009). Adaptive variation in judgment and philosophical intuition. Consciousness and Cognition, 18(1), 356–358.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Colaço, D., Buckwalter, W., Stich, S., & Machery, E. (2014). Epistemic intuitions in fake-barn thought experiments. Episteme, 11(02), 199–212.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Crandall, B., & Getchell-Reiter, K. (1993). Critical decision method: A technique for eliciting concrete assessment indicators from the intuition of NICU nurses. Advances in Nursing Science, 16(1), 42–51.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. De Cruz, H. (2015). Where philosophical intuitions come from. Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 93(2), 233–249.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. DeRose, K. (1996). Knowledge, assertion and lotteries. Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 74(4), 568–580.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Deutsch, M. (2009). Experimental philosophy and the theory of reference. Mind and Language, 24(4), 445–466.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Deutsch, M. (2010). Intuitions, counter-examples, and experimental philosophy. Review of Philosophy and Psychology, 1(3), 447–460.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Deutsch, M. (2015). The myth of the intuitive: Experimental philosophy and philosophical method. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Devitt, M. (2006). Ignorance of language. Oxford: Clarendon Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Devitt, M. (2011). Experimental semantics. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 82(2), 418–435.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Engel Jr., M. (2015). Epistemic Luck. In J. Fieser & B. Dowden (Eds.), Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved from
  31. Ericsson, K. A., & Lehmann, A. C. (1996). Expert and exceptional performance: Evidence of maximal adaptation to task constraints. Annual Review of Psychology, 47(1), 273–305.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Feltz, A., & Cokely, E. (2009). Do judgments about freedom and responsibility depend on who you are? personality differences in intuitions about compatibilism and incompatibilism. Consciousness and Cognition, 18(1), 342–350.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Feltz, A., & Cokely, E. (2012). The philosophical personality argument. Philosophical Studies, 161(2), 227–246.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Gendler, T. S., & Hawthorne, J. (2005). The real guide to fake barns: A catalogue of gifts for your epistemic enemies. Philosophical Studies, 124(3), 331–352.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Gettier, E. (1963). Is justified true belief knowledge? Analysis, 23(6), 121–123.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Glenberg, A. M., & Epstein, W. (1987). Inexpert calibration of comprehension. Memory & Cognition, 15(1), 84–93.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Gobet, F., & Simon, H. A. (1996). Recall of rapidly presented random chess positions is a function of skill. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 3(2), 159–163.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Goldman, A. (1967). A causal theory of knowing. The Journal of Philosophy, 64(12), 357–372.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Goldman, A. (1976). Discrimination and perceptual knowledge. The Journal of Philosophy, 73(20), 771–791.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Goldman, A. (1999). Knowledge in a social world. Oxford: Clarendon Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Goldman, A. (2001). Social routes to belief and knowledge. The Monist, 84(3), 346–367.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Grundmann, T. (2010). Some hope for intuitions. A reply to Weinberg. Philosophical Psychology, 23(4), 481–509.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Hales, S. (2006). Relativism and the foundations of philosophy. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  44. Harman, G. (1968). Knowledge, inference, and explanation. American Philosophical Quarterly, 5(3), 164–173.Google Scholar
  45. Harman, G. (1973). Thought. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  46. Hawthorne, J. (2002). Deeply contingent a priori knowledge. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 65(2), 247–269.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Hawthorne, J. (2004). Knowledge and lotteries. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  48. Heathcote, A. (2006). Truthmaking and the Gettier problem. In S. Hetherington (Ed.), Aspects of knowing: Epistemological essays (pp. 152–167). Amsterdam: Elsevier.Google Scholar
  49. Hetherington, S. (1999). Knowing failably. The Journal of Philosophy, 96(11), 565–587.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Hetherington, S. (2015). Gettier Problems. In J. Fieser & B. Dowden (Eds.), Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved from
  51. Hitchcock, C. (2012). Thought experiments, real experiments, and the expertise objection. European Journal for Philosophy of Science2(2), 205–218. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Hitchcock, C., & Knobe, J. (2009). Cause and norm. Journal of Philosophy, 106, 587–612.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Hofmann, F. (2010). Intuitions, concepts, and imagination. Philosophical Psychology, 23(4), 529–546.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Holton, R. (1997). Some telling examples: A reply to Tsohatzidis. Journal of Pragmatics, 28(5), 625–628.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Horvath, J. (2010). How (not) to react to experimental philosophy. Philosophical Psychology, 23(4), 447–480.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Horvath, J., & Wiegmann, A. (2013). Expert intuitions about knowledge. Retrieved from
  57. Ichikawa, J. J. (2014). Who needs intuitions? Two experimentalist critiques. In A. R. Booth & D. P. Rowbottom (Eds.), Intuitions (pp. 232–255). Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Ichikawa, J. J., & Steup, M. (2014). The Analysis of Knowledge. In E. N. Zalta (Ed.), The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2014). Retrieved from
  59. Kauppinen, A. (2007). The rise and fall of experimental philosophy. Philosophical Explorations, 10(2), 95–118.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Kipper, J. (2010). Philosophers and grammarians. Philosophical Psychology, 23(4), 511–527.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Klein, P. (1981). Certainty: A refutation of scepticism. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  62. Klein, G., Calderwood, R., & Clinton-Cirocco, A. (1986). Rapid decision making on the fire ground. Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society Annual Meeting, 30(6), 576–580.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Lehrer, K. (1965). Knowledge, truth, and evidence. Analysis, 25(5), 168–175.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Lehrer, K. (1974). Knowledge. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  65. Lehrer, K., & Paxson, T. (1969). Knowledge: Undefeated justified true belief. Journal of Philosophy, 66(8), 225–237.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Liao, S. M., Wiegmann, A., Alexander, J., & Vong, G. (2012). Putting the trolley in order: Experimental philosophy and the loop case. Philosophical Psychology, 25(5), 661–671.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Littlejohn, C. (2012). Justification and the truth-connection. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Ludwig, K. (2007). The epistemology of thought experiments: First person versus third person approaches. Midwest Studies In Philosophy, 31(1), 128–159.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Ludwig, K. (2010). Intuitions and relativity. Philosophical Psychology, 23(4), 427–445.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Lycan, W. (1977). Evidence one does not possess. Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 55(2), 114–126.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Lycan, W. (2006). On the Gettier problem problem. In S. Hetherington (Ed.), Epistemology futures (pp. 148–168). Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  72. Machery, E. (2012). Expertise and intuitions about reference. Theoria, 27(1), 37–54.Google Scholar
  73. Machery, E., Mallon, R., Nichols, S., & Stich, S. (2004). Semantics, cross-cultural style. Cognition, 92, 1–12.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Machery, E., Stich, S., Rose, D., Chatterjee, A., Karasawa, K., Struchiner, N., et al. (2015). Gettier across cultures. Noûs. doi: 10.1111/nous.12110.Google Scholar
  75. Mizrahi, M. (2015). Three arguments against the expertise defense. Metaphilosophy, 46(1), 52–64.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Nado, J. (2014). Philosophical expertise. Philosophy Compass, 9(9), 631–641.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Nado, J. (2015a). Philosophical expertise and scientific expertise. Philosophical Psychology, 28(7), 1026–1044.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Nado, J. (2015b). The intuition deniers. Philosophical Studies. doi: 10.1007/s11098-015-0519-9.Google Scholar
  79. Nagel, J. (2012). Intuitions and experiments: A defense of the case method in epistemology. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 85(3), 495–527.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Nagel, J., Mar, R., & San Juan, V. (2013a). Authentic Gettier cases: A reply to Starmans and Friedman. Cognition, 129(3), 666–669.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. Nagel, J., San Juan, V., & Mar, R. A. (2013b). Lay denial of knowledge for justified true beliefs. Cognition, 129(3), 652–661.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. Nichols, S., & Knobe, J. (2007). Moral responsibility and determinism: The cognitive science of folk intuitions. Noûs, 41(4), 663–685.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  83. Nichols, S., Stich, S., & Weinberg, J. (2003). Metaskepticism: Meditations in ethno-epistemology. In S. Luper (Ed.), The skeptics (pp. 227–247). Aldershot: Ashgate.Google Scholar
  84. Pritchard, D. (2005). Epistemic luck. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  85. Pronin, E. (2007). Perception and misperception of bias in human judgment. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 11(1), 37–43.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  86. Pronin, E., Gilovich, T., & Ross, L. (2004). Objectivity in the eye of the beholder: Divergent perceptions of bias in self versus others. Psychological Review, 111(3), 781–799.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  87. Pust, J. (2012). Intuition. In E. N. Zalta (Ed.), The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2012). Retrieved from
  88. Rini, R. A. (2014). Analogies, moral intuitions, and the expertise defence. Review of Philosophy and Psychology, 5(2), 169–181.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  89. Rini, R. A. (2015). How not to test for philosophical expertise. Synthese, 192(2), 431–452.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  90. Rorty, R. (2007). Analytic and transformative philosophy. Analysis and Existence, 5, 5–26.Google Scholar
  91. Ryberg, J. (2013). Moral intuitions and the expertise defence. Analysis, 73(1), 3–9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  92. Schulz, E., Cokely, E., & Feltz, A. (2011). Persistent bias in expert judgments about free will and moral responsibility: A test of the expertise defense. Consciousness and Cognition, 20(4), 1722–1731.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  93. Schwitzgebel, E., & Cushman, F. (2012). Expertise in moral reasoning? Order effects on moral judgment in professional philosophers and non-philosophers. Mind and Language, 27(2), 135–153.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  94. Schwitzgebel, E., & Cushman, F. (2015). Philosophers’ biased judgments persist despite training, expertise and reflection. Cognition, 141, 127–137.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  95. Seyedsayamdost, H. (2015). On normativity and epistemic intuitions: Failure of replication. Episteme, 12(01), 95–116.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  96. Shope, R. (2002). Conditions and analyses of knowledge. In P. Moser (Ed.), The Oxford handbook of epistemology (pp. 25–71). Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  97. Shope, R. (2004). The analysis of knowing. In I. Niiniluoto, M. Sintonen, & J. Wolenski (Eds.), Handbook of epistemology (pp. 283–329). Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  98. Sosa, E. (2007). Experimental philosophy and philosophical intuition. Philosophical Studies, 132(1), 99–107.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  99. Sosa, E. (2009). A defense of the use of intuitions in philosophy. In M. Bishop & D. Murphy (Eds.), Stich and his critics (pp. 101–112). Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  100. Sosa, E. (2010). Intuitions and meaning divergence. Philosophical Psychology, 23(4), 419–426.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  101. Steup, M. (2014). Epistemology. In E. N. Zalta (Ed.), The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2014). Retrieved from
  102. Sutton, J. (2005). Stick to what you know. Noûs, 39(3), 359–396.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  103. Swain, S., Alexander, J., & Weinberg, J. (2008). The instability of philosophical intuitions: Running hot and cold on truetemp. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 76(1), 138–155.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  104. Sytsma, J., & Machery, E. (2010). Two conceptions of subjective experience. Philosophical Studies, 151(2), 299–327.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  105. Tobia, K., Buckwalter, W., & Stich, S. (2013a). Moral intuitions: Are philosophers experts? Philosophical Psychology, 26(5), 629–638.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  106. Tobia, K., Chapman, G., & Stich, S. (2013b). Cleanliness is next to morality, even for philosophers. Journal of Consciousness Studies, 20(11–12), 195–204.Google Scholar
  107. Turri, J. (2013). A conspicuous art: Putting Gettier to the test. Philosophers’ Imprint, 13(10), 1–16.Google Scholar
  108. Turri, J. (forthcoming). Knowledge judgments in “Gettier” cases. In J. Sytsma & W. Buckwalter (Eds.), A companion to experimental philosophy. Malden, MA: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  109. Unger, P. (1968). An analysis of factual knowledge. The Journal of Philosophy, 65(6), 157–170.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  110. Vaesen, K., Peterson, M., & Van Bezooijen, B. (2013). The reliability of armchair intuitions. Metaphilosophy, 44(5), 559–578.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  111. Vicente, K. J., & Wang, J. H. (1998). An ecological theory of expertise effects in memory recall. Psychological Review, 105(1), 33–57.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  112. Weinberg, J. (2007). How to challenge intuitions empirically without risking skepticism. Midwest Studies In Philosophy, 31(1), 318–343.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  113. Weinberg, J. (2014). Cappelen between rock and a hard place. Philosophical Studies, 171(3), 545–553.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  114. Weinberg, J., & Alexander, J. (2014). The challenge of sticking with intuitions through thick and thin. In A. R. Booth & D. P. Rowbottom (Eds.), Intuitions (pp. 187–212). Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  115. Weinberg, J., Alexander, J., Gonnerman, C., & Reuter, S. (2012). Experimental philosophy: Restrictionism and reflection. The Monist, 95(2), 201–222.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  116. Weinberg, J., Gonnerman, C., Buckner, C., & Alexander, J. (2010). Are philosophers expert intuiters? Philosophical Psychology, 23(3), 331–355.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  117. Weinberg, J., Nichols, S., & Stich, S. (2001). Normativity and epistemic intuitions. Philosophical Topics, 29(1/2), 429–460.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  118. Wiegmann, A., & Waldmann, M. R. (2014). Transfer effects between moral dilemmas: A causal model theory. Cognition, 131(1), 28–43.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  119. Williamson, T. (2000). Knowledge and its limits. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  120. Williamson, T. (2004). Philosophical “intuitions” and scepticism about judgement. Dialectica, 58(1), 109–153.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  121. Williamson, T. (2005). Armchair philosophy, metaphysical modality and counterfactual thinking. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, 105(1), 1–23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  122. Williamson, T. (2007). The philosophy of philosophy. Malden, MA: Blackwell.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  123. Williamson, T. (2011). Philosophical expertise and the burden of proof. Metaphilosophy, 42(3), 215–229.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  124. Wright, J. C. (2010). On intuitional stability: The clear, the strong, and the paradigmatic. Cognition, 115(3), 491–503.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Philosophisches SeminarUniversität zu KölnKölnGermany
  2. 2.Georg-Elias-Müller-Institut für PsychologieGeorg-August-Universität GöttingenGöttingenGermany

Personalised recommendations