FOM: Re. intuitionism, Tennant, McLarty, et al

Graham White graham at
Mon Sep 14 19:22:03 EDT 1998

>I would like to thank Mic Detlefsen for his very thought-provoking and
>informative response regarding Brouwer's position on the OF v. THAT issue
>that had arisen earlier.
>It would be helpful, in trying to understand Brouwer's failure to make the
>distinction, if Mic could provide textual references where one can pursue
>the evidence for his (Mic's) summary to the effect that
>>Brouwer thought of the epistemic purpose of
>>proof (even a long one) as that of securing AN intuition of the theorem
>>proved. (N.B. Brouwer seemed to think that knowledge of a truth required a
>>certain 'unity' in its justification ... a unity that calls for a proof to
>>express a single idea--an intuition.
>For, it seems, this would have to be one of the main issues on which
>modern intuitionism will have forsaken its founding father.
>Neil Tennant
I can't give references to Brouwer, but it seems to me that Mic's position
is historically extremely plausible; lots of other philosophers (Husserl,
for example) had a similar position at the time. Namely that genuine
knowledge must be validated by an intuition, which was some sort of
non-discursive entity, and that, compared to such an intuition,
anything which could be communicated by speaking and writing would
not count as knowledge but only a sort of hearsay.

We may not, of course, think this is a very respectable position, but
we do live in a rather different intellectual culture.

Graham White

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