, Volume 191, Issue 3, pp 569–606 | Cite as

Philosophical intuitions, heuristics, and metaphors

  • Eugen Fischer


Psychological explanations of philosophical intuitions can help us assess their evidentiary value, and our warrant for accepting them. To explain and assess conceptual or classificatory intuitions about specific situations, some philosophers have suggested explanations which invoke heuristic rules proposed by cognitive psychologists. The present paper extends this approach of intuition assessment by heuristics-based explanation, in two ways: It motivates the proposal of a new heuristic, and shows that this metaphor heuristic helps explain important but neglected intuitions: general factual intuitions which have been highly influential in the philosophies of mind and perception but neglected in ongoing debates in the epistemology of philosophy. To do so, the paper integrates results from three philosophically pertinent but hitherto largely unconnected strands of psychological research: research on intuitive judgement, analogy and metaphor, and memory-based processing, respectively. The paper shows that the heuristics-based explanation thus obtained satisfies the key requirements cognitive psychologists impose on such explanations, that it can explain the philosophical intuitions targeted, and that this explanation supports normative assessment of the intuitions’ evidentiary value: It reveals whether particular intuitions are due to proper exercise of cognitive competencies or constitute cognitive illusions.


Philosophical intuition Heuristic rules Conceptual metaphor Analogical inference Experimental philosophy Cognitive epistemology Epistemology of philosophy 



For helpful comments on previous drafts and closely related material I am indebted to John Collins, Hilary Kornblith, Jennifer Nagel, David Papineau, Finn Spicer, two anonymous referees for this journal, and audiences in Belfast, Bielefeld, Graz, and London.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of PhilosophyUniversity of East AngliaNorwichUK

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