Susan Stebbing's Intellectualism


  • Bryan Pickel University of Glasgow



This paper reconstructs Susan Stebbing’s account of intelligent
dealing with a problem and defends this account against charges
that it relies on a “censurable kind” of intellectualism. This charge
was made in Stebbing’s own time by Laird and Wittgenstein. Michael
Kremer has recently made the case that Stebbing is also a proximate
target of Gilbert Ryle’s attack on intellectualism. This paper argues
that Stebbing should indeed be counted as an intellectualist since she
holds that intelligent dealing with a problem requires propositional
thought. Yet, for Stebbing, thinking is an activity of a whole person
and is enabled and constrained by their dispositions. This complex
picture of a thinker enables Stebbing’s account to resist arguments
targeting certain forms of intellectualism such as Ryle’s regress
argument. It also helps her to respond to the charge that she
overemphasizes the importance of intellectual failures. On the picture
that emerges, Stebbing offers a strikingly modern epistemology that
incorporates the social features of a person as well as their purely
intellectual features.


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