Papers on Intuitions and Metaphilosophy


"Semantic Intuitions, Conceptual Analysis and Cross-Cultural Variation", Philosophical Studies, Volume 146, Number 2, November 2009, pp. 159-177. (PDF)


Abstract: While philosophers of language have traditionally relied upon their  intuitions about cases when developing theories of reference, this methodology has recently been attacked on the grounds that intuitions about reference, far from being universal, show significant cultural variation, thus undermining their relevance for  semantic theory. I’ll attempt to demonstrate that (1) such criticisms do not, in fact,  undermine the traditional philosophical methodology, and (2) our underlying intuitions about the nature of reference may be more universal than the authors suppose.


“Intuitions and Semantic Theory” Metaphilosophy. Vol. 36, no. 3 (April 2005)  pp. 363-380. (PDF)


Abstract: While engaged in the analysis of philosophically central concepts, analytic philosophers have traditionally relied extensively on their own intuitions about when such concepts can be correctly applied. Intuitions have, however, come under increasingly critical scrutiny of late, and if they turned out not to be a reliable tool for the proper analysis of our concepts, then a radical reworking of analytic philosophy’s methodology would be in order. One influential line of criticism against the use of intuition argues that they only tell us about our conceptions of things, and not the things themselves. This venerable line of criticism can seem considerably strengthened if one endorses ‘‘externalist’’ accounts of meaning. Nevertheless, the move from semantic externalism to the rejection of intuitions will be shown to be illegitimate if one has a constitutive rather than expressive understanding of the relation between our intuitions and our concepts.


“Ordinary Language, Conventionalism, and A Priori Knowledge” Dialectica, Vol 55. No.1 (2001), pp. 1-11. (PDF)


Abstract: This paper examines popular ‘conventionalist’ explanations of why philosophers need not back up their claims about how ‘we’ use our words with empirical studies of actual usage. It argues that such explanations are incompatible with a number of currently popular and plausible assumptions about language’s ‘social’ character. Alternate explanations of the philosopher’s purported entitlement to make a priori claims about ‘our’ usage are then suggested. While these alternate explanations would, unlike the conventionalist ones, be compatible with the more social picture of language, they are each shown to face serious problems of their own.


“Review of Haukioja (ed.), Advances in Experimental Philosophy of Language”, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews,  March 2016. (Link)