Be sure to check out Goodness Over God, the counter-apologetics podcast hosted by myself and philosopher Michael Long!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Alexander Pruss on Self-evidence and the PSR

As long as I have seen it used, I've had no end of trouble interpreting the term "self-evident." The only way I know to make sense of self-evidence is to understand it as a kind of intuitive obviousness. So, when Alexander Pruss writes in one of his papers that he finds the principle of sufficient reason (hereafter the PSR) to be self-evidently true, I interpret him as having a strong intuition of it. Unfortunately, this cannot be all he means by "self-evidence;" for he speaks about it as if it were an objective property about which we can be correct or incorrect. So, on Mr. Pruss's view, if I do not find the PSR to be self-evidently true, then it follows that one of us is factually right and the other wrong. Yet on my interpretation, the difference in opinion amounts to varying intuitions. So, while we may disagree as to how to handle our often unique intuitions, we are not necessarily mistaken about having them or not having them. I shall not hesitate to point out, for instance, that Mr. Pruss commits a substantial error when he decides to trust his intuition uncritically, and urges others to do the same, but I do not dispute that the intuition is genuine (though I strongly suspect that in this case it is contrived).