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        insight and the importance of individuation

gary e. davis
May 2003 / March 2014

This discussion was initially part of “A Brief Sense Of
An American Pragmatism”

Insight is connected with discovery and novelty, though evaluating the importance of an insight is certainly a methodic matter, if not discursive. But discourse is one among many sources of insight.

The pragmatic sense of insight is cognitivist rather than intuitionist, so it’s quite feasible to take an intuitional view toward the appeal of great goods without being ontically intuitionist. Views and opinions are ordinarily backed up by warrants that are not merely intuitive, but are lived as if they are basically intuitive, because experiential reliabilism feels like an intuitionism. One commonly has quite deliberate reasons for their views, including their best views, which are insights—epistemic, self-reflective and ethical—that aren’t merely intuitive, but which seem to be so.

Research on The Nature of Insight (R. Sternberg, ed., MIT Press,1995) clearly indicates that insight is a cognitive matter. Dewey is cognitivst. Peirce, Rorty, and James are all associable with cognitivism, rather than intuitionism—while recent research on intuition shows it’s as assessable as cognition; so one doesn’t have to be intuitionist to give rational importance to intuition as one basis of insight (Intuition: its powers and perils, David G. Myers, Yale UP 2002).

Suppose I think that I have some insight into the truth of X. I know that because I’m gaining further insight (in my work) based on specific knowledge and due to the way of gaining knowledge that led to the specific truth about X that I earlier believed I had disclosed. Efficacy is the proof of insight, rather than recognition—i.e., the truth of justified true belief in reliabilism is demonstrated by extended efficacy relative to reliance on that justified belief. (Accordingly, some reliablist epistemology attends to the “virtue” of insightful employment of competences [Virtue Epistemology, ed. A. Fairweather & L. Zagzebski, Oxford 2001, especially essays by A.I. Goldman, Ernest Sosa, John Greco, and Keith Lehrer]). Genuine insight is not basically a matter of convincing someone else that you’re being genuine. Insight is not basically about appearing justified. Showing insight is about enabling the other to gain insight, too. Insight is an accomplishment—gained by initiative (and conveyed by appreciative) enabling—not primarily a matter of convincing or being convinced by a warranting. One recognizes an insight because one gains it for oneself. It isn’t reducible to justification of belief. A truth is acceptably shown because one works to appreciate a proffered insight as indeed a cogent and appealing claim that is efficacious for action (for further inquiry, fruitfulness in projects, etc.).

Habermas appreciates that teleological action is the background of all other kinds of action (a major insight), since lifespan projects—in our Project of modernity—are a horizon of what we do. For a life, any sense of “the” Project of modernity is in supplement to the life span horizon of that life (which is the prevailing value sphere vis-à-vis cultural and social spheres). So, the long-term insights vital to carrying on our career, self-actualization, family, and community seem to be what it is that frames evaluation of time-limited projects together in terms of particular validity bases (including questioned claims about alleged insights brought into relevant interaction).

(JH’s concern with “moral” is really about making law as generally as can be formally warranted. But we legislate for the sake of Our shared Project, not just to stabilize interaction or secure social integration. We are all about doing the Project of our lives, shared as well as largely unshared. Law serves the shared project-ivity of lives; and is revised or repealed in light of the evolving society through its projects. Neither law nor the pretensions of formal universalizability can trump the evolving interests of life.).



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