Monday, October 23, 2006

Posting recently on Larry Horn's lecture on pragmatics reminded me about some thoughts I had about intuitions.

The following notion of intuitions will be pretty simple and have the result, I think, that we ought to be pretty conservative of intuitions (but not slaves to them).

The most accurate way I can think of to think of intuitions is as follows:

(TDI1) Intuitions are judgements that competent L-language users make about the truth-value of sentences in L.

Competence comes in degrees so the "weight" of an intuition as well as it's "strength" will vary. By "strength" I intend to indicate the confidence the target speaker has in the target judgement. By "weight" I intend to indicate the force such testimony would/should have for a 3rd party. Since the 3rd party in most cases will also be an L-speaker, she must weigh the judgements together (gives rise to interesting problems in the epistemology of disagreement, but that's another post).

I now take fluency in a language to be a species of expertise. It is not at all clear to me that professional lexicographers have more expertise in the meaning of terms than the ordinary fluent English speaker, since I afford quite a strong role of use in meaning (but that's another post).

So my second thesis is a strengthening of the first:

(TDI2) Intuitions are the expert opinions of fluent language users.

From this thesis I draw the following conclusion:

(TDI3) Intuitions have the warrant which accrues to expert opinions.

I think that's enough to piss off quite a few people so I'll stop there for now.

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