The intellectual given
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Some things we know just by thinking about them: for example, that identity is transitive, that three are more than two, that wantonly torturing innocents is wrong, and other propositions which simply strike us as true when we consider them. But how? This essay articulates and defends a rationalist answer which critically develops a significant analogy between intuition and perception. The central thesis is that intuition and perception, though different, are at a certain level of abstraction the same kind of state, and states of this kind are, by their very nature, poised to play a distinctive epistemic role. Specifically, in the case of intuition, we encounter an intellectual state that is so structured as to provide justified and even knowledgeable belief without requiring justification in turn—something which may, thus, be thought of as given. The essay proceeds in three stages. Stage one advances a fully general and psychologically realistic account of the nature of intuition, namely, as an intellectual presentation of an apparent truth. Stage two provides a modest treatment of the epistemic status of intuition, in particular, how intuition serves as a source of immediate prima facie justification. Stage three outlines a response to Benacerraf-style worries about intuitive knowledge regarding abstract objects (e.g., numbers, sets, and values); the proposal is a constitutive, rather than causal, explanation of the means by which a given intuition connects a thinker to the fact intuited.