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Your "intuitions" should seem decidedly irrelevant if you're thinking honestly about questions of sexual assault as opposed to merely playing semantics

Assuming I understood the comment (made on another thread - about how to define rape), the commentator seems to be saying that intuitions are not suitable starting points for philosophical analysis.

Is that right?

  • Please provide context (i.e. a link or reference) for that quote, it may be relevant and important. – user2953 Apr 29 '15 at 18:03
  • Given that the quote came from another user on PSE, this feels more appropriate for MetaPSE. – James Kingsbery Apr 29 '15 at 18:57
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    I agree that this is better addressed on meta; its not really about philosophy as such. – Mozibur Ullah Apr 29 '15 at 22:06
  • If you are deciding this is about the interaction and not the question, someone should edit the question. The relevance of intuition vs experience and agreement is actually a very central question in philosophy. – user9166 Apr 30 '15 at 17:56
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In the context, I feel this is a misunderstanding. There is no point in isolating and focussing on the fact it is claimed as intuition. The quotes imply the writer may imagine the position is not intuition at all, but biased opinion shaped by political preference.

People feel that certain questions need to be given more weight than an idle question affords them: That opinions that might offend someone's politics simply should not be entertained publicly without due deference, because they are emotionally difficult to hear or consider objectively.

I tend to disagree, but you cannot un-offend someone's visceral opinions on how important or non-political a question needs to be before it is inoffensive to ask, or how unemotionally a given topic can be fairly discussed.

  • i find your reply pretty baffling - if the writer felt that way they should have been honest enough to explicitly claim it; which would probably have shown them up for the poor rhetorician they are tho – user6917 May 13 '15 at 22:39
  • He did. 1) He said it was hard to give you a sympathetic reading. This implies you are offending him and he is working past that feeling of offense to address the question. 2) He puts the word intuition in quotes, as I noted, indicating he does not think you mean intuition when you say intuition. And 3) he indicates that your ideas might be relevant if you were not just "playing semantics". -- So the issue is not about intuition as a basis for philosophy, it is about your presumed motives, which offend him. You seem to need some help interpreting others emotions from clues in text. – user9166 May 14 '15 at 17:52
  • i don't think i can understand what the issue is here. i don't think i expressed anything horrid, and if i did he should have reported the thread not answered it to attacked my wrongly presumed (i assume - it's not clear what he thought my motives were) motives – user6917 May 15 '15 at 13:58
  • I cannot speak for why he said it, but you seem not to have understood what was said. He gave a longer answer elsewhere in Meta. – user9166 May 15 '15 at 14:16
  • i don't remember struggling to understand anything except the cogency / relevance of what he was saying – user6917 May 15 '15 at 14:18
  • One need not have struggled to have failed. – user9166 May 15 '15 at 14:51
  • so why do you think i failed to understand what he said? i don't remember any difficult words or phrases or ideas, just its relevance – user6917 May 15 '15 at 14:56
  • In what way are my earlier attempts to convey this ineffective? I feel you are just not listening. if you don't believe he said he was offended, what do you think "It is difficult to give this a sympathetic reading" means? What do you imagine are the things that limit one's ability to extend sympathy? And which ones might reasonably apply to the situation? I feel you are not listening. What part of 'playing semantics' is not derrogation of your motives? – user9166 May 15 '15 at 15:13
  • my point is that i don't really understand what legitimate reason he has for being offended, let alone expressing his offensive with an answer... i will refrain from asking if he is actually offended or just irrational – user6917 May 15 '15 at 15:14
  • But you did not say that. You said he should have told you he was offended, if he was offended. And he did tell you. So this is a vaccuous complaint. I have already stated that I will not speak for why he was offended. I think he is wrong to be so. So why keep insisting this is not a misunderstanding, that you fully understand him, when you are not even certain he is making any sense? – user9166 May 15 '15 at 15:18
  • i don't remember claiming that - part of good netiquette does imho involve an admission that what others say can be more nuanced than it may seem. i'm sorry that i offended him, but i won't pretend that it's legit offence – user6917 May 15 '15 at 15:19
  • This thread, to my mind, is "if the writer felt that way they should have been honest enough to explicitly claim it". But between the choice of "sympathetic read" and "playing semantics", it got said, and for most folks that would be considered relatively explicit. He was honest, and to be more explicit would be impolite. – user9166 May 15 '15 at 15:48
  • i'm sorry maybe i missed the irony but what was he implying ? – user6917 May 15 '15 at 15:50
  • I am, to what degree it matters, on your side. I think it was an OK question. This new question is not the relevant point of disagreement however. And neither of you seem to want to admit that. – user9166 May 15 '15 at 15:50
  • He was implying what I said: That your question was offensive because it sprang from the wrong kind of motives. There is no irony, just excessive politeness tending toward doublespeak. – user9166 May 15 '15 at 15:51
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Since this is in respect to a comment I've made, I think I should expand upon it.

Intuition in philosophy is controversial, and certainly the question on whether it is epistemically reliable or even essential (for instance in idealist/platonist metaphysics) is a matter of some debate. But even in discussions featuring intuition it is with reference to a background account of the role that intuition is playing, such as with respect to evolutionary adaptation, connection to an abstract realm, one's learned linguistic or otherwise social practices and so on. If you're appealing to intuition you need to be clear about what work this is doing, because otherwise you can just pluck whatever you like out of thin air. It's not a totalizing philosophical panacea.

The point I made was in a sense more basic than this, though it does relate to the broader problem about intuition. There is a certain amount of sensitivity due on matters of sexual assault, because it is worth bearing in mind that regardless of the definitions of the law, the act in question is fundamentally a form of violence brought to bear upon a person.

In the question of what constitutes "rape", the methodology of your questioning is incredibly important. What is it you're asking the question in order to accomplish, how are you asking the question, what kinds of testimony and evidence are you considering; and, critically, how does this draw on and interpret the relevant contexts that you're assessing?

Trying to resolve these kinds of questions with appeal to intuition indicates a methodology of "self-reflection", that you're looking at your own background beliefs and premises in an attempt to come to an answer. But unless you're specifically connected somehow to concrete instances of assault, this is an insensitive methodology; it doesn't appeal to anything outside of your own head, in particular victims, societies, perpetrators, consequences etc.

Why would you ever think that intuition was a suitable technique for answering questions about sexual assault? It is certainly neither suitable for effective legal or sociological assessment. The charitable take on all of this is that you're using intuition in a way in which you absolutely have no cause to because you're trying to apply a habitual totalizing technique in a field in which it has no purpose being used.

  • "unless you're specifically connected somehow to concrete instances of assault, this is an insensitive methodology; it doesn't appeal to anything outside of your own head, in particular victims, societies, perpetrators, consequences etc." this is absurdly bad reasoning - i don't need to have experienced something to claim it is bad... i'm sorry i didn't do enough background reading for you tho. – user6917 May 13 '15 at 22:41
  • i also find it baffling that you would claim that moral intuition has no role in deciding what laws to legislate, tho i don't know anything about the field - it simply doesn't matter though because i wasn't asking about legality but moral qualms – user6917 May 13 '15 at 22:44
  • and i REALLY don't understand WHY you thought i was asking for legal advice rather than what meets the moral definition of "rape" – user6917 May 13 '15 at 22:56
  • To the extent that empathy is part of intuition, what you are saying is dead wrong. If one cannot incorporate one's ethics deeply enough to have proper intuition about them, they will not apply in the heat of the moment when it matters. So how one's intuition reads about a potential crime is actually an important part of morality, if not ethics. Look at many of our most effective rehabilitative techniques, like Tim Robbins method acting workshops in prisons. They rely on giving criminals an intuitive grasp of when they are acting out of the wrong sets of motivations. – user9166 May 15 '15 at 14:59
  • This is especially relevant here because he is trying to get rules that extend to cases where he feels his intuition fails him. To my mind, this is the right use of ethics to evolve morality. (I don't think any of this is realistic thinking, I think it is defensively avoiding admitting your reaction was totally subjective. It is OK to be subjective...) – user9166 May 15 '15 at 15:23

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