Here’s a caricature of a familiar exchange:
Smith asserts P. Jones asks “yes, but how do you know P?” Smith says “Bah!” and “Do not confuse epistemology with metaphysics.”
In defense of Jones, consider these principles Jones can appeal to:
(A): It is observed that P. Scientific theory T explains P. But scientific theory T is inconsistent with the fact that P was observed. Too bad for T!
(B): It is intuited that P. Philosophical theory T explains P. But philosophical theory T is inconsistent with the fact that P is intuited. Too bad for T!
(There are weaker principles than A and B that Jones might appeal to. I have in mind here principles in which T is consistent with P but fails to explain the perception of/intuition of P, or, alternately, leaves utterly mysterious the explanation of the perception of/intuition of P.)
Example of A: I observe that a bright light has just flashed outside my apartment window. T = A nuke exploded just outside my window. T would explain a flash of light. But it certainly would not explain a flash of light observed by me. T instead implies my destruction and thus failure to observe that P. Too bad for T!
Examples of B? Clear examples are going to be a bit harder to come by, since the concept of intuition is much less clear than the concept of observation. Let’s stipulate a definition of intuition.
Intuiting P means believing P not as a consequence of observing that P and not as a consequence of any learned theory that includes or entails P.
So, if P is believed simply as a consequence of learning a language, and knowing a language isn’t knowing any theory, then that would be intuiting P. Also, being born believing P would count as intuiting P.
I’ll save the B examples for a later post. Brain Hammer readers are invited to provide their own in the comments.