On the use of intuition in arguments

I said that I post some about bad arguments that only seem compelling because of the thing called Intuition. Below is an argument that is bad and relies on intuition called the organ transplant dilemma.

You are a transplant surgeon with five patients who each need a different organ: one needs a heart, one needs a lung, one a pancreas, one a kidney, and one a liver. You have no organ donors, and each of these people is on the verge of death. You are in your office, trying to figure out what to do, when a healthy man walks in for a checkup. You could kill him while he’s sleeping and harvest his organs, saving your five dying patients. Should you do it?

The major problem with the argument is that it assumes without any reason that it is immoral to kill one person so we can save 5 people. The thing that prevents people from seeing this otherwise obvious unfounded assumption is intuition. However there are some people who defend the use of it and going to show why basing arguments on it tend to make for flawed reasoning.

The reason why Intuition is a terrible guide to knowing what is true or false because it’s too unreliable. Take the Monty hall problem for example. The Monty hall problem goes like this.

There are three doors in front of you with each door marked with a number of 1, 2 or 3, with one of them containing a prize and the other two containing nothing behind them. You chose a door and one of the doors that you did not opened to reveal the that nothing was behind that door. You are then given a choice between sticking to your chosen door or switching to the other unopened door that you did not initially chose. Should you switch or not.

To that question, Most people would answer that it’s does not matter if switch or stay since the chance of winning or losing is the same either way since there are only two doors. That is intuitive answer, but also the wrong one I will explain. If you initially chose the winning door (which happens 1/3 of the time), Then it does not matter which door is opened since by definition the door that you chose is the correct one meaning the other two doors are the incorrect ones and that it is best to not switch. If you choose either of the incorrect doors (Which will happened 2/3 of the time), then the other incorrect door that you did not chose will be opened meaning the remaining door that you did not chose is the correct one meaning that in this case that it is best to switch. In the two possible scenarios, the former one happens only 1 third of the time while the latter one happens 2 thirds of the time meaning that it is better to switch since you have 2 in 3 chance of winning the compared to the 1 in 3 chance of winning if stuck to your initial chose.

This is only example of how intuition can be completely wrong on something, it follows that intuitions is a bad for use in arguments. I do know of a defense that defenders of intuition use when faced with the above argument is to assert that something being intuitive is it being evidence of that position being true. I am going to show the problem with the assertion with an analogy.

If you ask your son if he completed his homework and your son answered yes despite the fact the last dozen times he lied to you and answered yes to your question, would you trust him on his say so. Obviously wouldn’t do that and you would instead ask for evidence of the completion of the work.

That’s not to say that any arguments that use intuition is automatically an flawed argument but the trueness of the argument must be checked against things other than intuition since intuition is a bad guide to reality.


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