Intuition in Kahneman and Tversky’s psychology of rationality

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© Cambridge University Press 2014. A New Concept of Intuition There is a concept of intuition peculiar to the 20th century, especially its last decades: the idea that intuitions are fast and automatic cognitions, which have to be explained in terms of – typically though not necessarily subconscious – rules of thumb called “heuristics.” This notion of intuition is widespread in psychological theories of reasoning or judgment and decision making. It is shared by Daniel Kahneman, Amos Tversky, Richard Nisbett, Lee Ross, and other adherents of their “heuristics-and-biases” approach, but also by many of their more or less fervent critics in the so-called “great rationality debate” (Tetlock & Mellers, 2002; cf. Samuels, Stich & Bishop, 2002; Sturm, 2012), such as Robin Hogarth, Keith Stanovich and Richard West, or Gerd Gigerenzer. (This is so notwithstanding important differences among these authors and the psychologists mentioned first, some of which I will have reason to point out.) Some psychologists dealing with rationality blame intuition, whereas others, in increasing numbers, praise it. Still, they mostly agree about core aspects of the concept of intuition. Through semi-popular presentations, it has even entered public discourse (e.g., Ariely, 2008; Gigerenzer, 2007a; Kahneman, 2011; Kast, 2007; Myers, 2002). The concept differs strikingly from older ones (cf. also Osbeck, 1999). For instance, it bears little if any resemblance with the immediate grasp of universal or timeless truths – in other words, axioms of Euclidean geometry or principles of logic – that Aristotle or Descartes viewed as a basic intellectual source of knowledge (see Machamer & Adams, this volume). Nor does it agree with the Kantian notion of a sensible representation of particular objects located in specific space-time regions (different from the concepts of the intellect, but still necessarily related to them; see Robinson, 2014). The creative insights or “eureka” moments that Archimedes, Poincaré, and many other scientists have spoken about when describing unexpected insights (see Thagard, 2014) are even less related to it. Finally, to pick another current – and controversial – view, the notion of intuition to be discussed here is markedly different from the evidential basis for the sober concept-chopping of current analytic philosophers (see, e.g., Cappelen, 2012; Dennett, 2013; DePaul & Ramsey, 1998; Pust, 2000). All these things have all been described using the term “intuition” or its cognates in other languages (from the Latin intueri= to look at/into, to consider).
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRational Intuition: Philosophical Roots, Scientific Investigations
Number of pages29
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2014


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