Ethical Intuitionism

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Huemer's own positive view is moderately complex. In a lengthy chapter on practical reasons he considers a well-known argument in support of non-cognitivism which appeals to a broadly Humean conception of motivation. Huemer's solution, as I understand it, is to reject the Humean account of normative reasons, and to abandon the claim that only desires can motivate, while retaining moral belief internalism -- the view that moral beliefs can be inherently motivational.

The discussion is rather convoluted and sometimes a little hard to follow, but these are muddy waters indeed. I turn now to his moral epistemology. Many intuitionists, of whom I am one, prefer like Ross to eschew the term 'intuition' in expounding the theory, since it can be so misleading. Huemer, however, embraces this terminology, which he introduces via his Principle of Phenomenal Conservatism PPC which states, briefly, that "it is reasonable to assume that things are the way they appear" p. When people say things like 'it seems that p ' they are reporting what Huemer calls 'appearances'.

These have propositional contents, but they are not beliefs, since -- as in the Muller-Lyer illusion, or the apparent increase of the size of the moon near the horizon -- one can continue to say that things seem to be thus and so even after one knows that they are not.

Ethical Intuitionism, part 1

For Huemer, 'appearance' "is a broad category that includes mental states involved in perception, memory, introspection, and intellection" p. Appearances can deceive, and we may cease to believe that things are as they initially appeared, prior to reasoning, but only on the basis of other appearances, e.

An initial, intellectual appearance is an 'intuition'. That is, an intuition that p is a state of its seeming to one that p that is not dependent on inference from other beliefs and that results from thinking about p , as opposed to perceiving, remembering, or introspecting. I note two things about this account. The first is that, on Huemer's view, the class of intuitions covers two disparate groups.

The first group consists of general evaluative remarks to which one might appeal in argument, such as 'enjoyment is better than suffering' or 'it is unjust to punish an innocent person'.


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The second consists of our initial moral responses to particular moral scenarios, such as the trolley cases. Huemer does not, I think, see any difference in the epistemic status of each group. Each can be rejected if reasoning, drawing on further 'appearances', suggests the initial appearance is misleading. Huemer's methodology would thus seem to be that of reflective equilibrium, an approach in ethics that is widely endorsed.

He describes this approach as 'foundationalism' because "we are justified in some beliefs without the need for supporting evidence" p. He does qualify this in a note, saying that his view more closely resembles Haack's 'foundherentism'. This terminology could mislead the careless reader.

The term foundationalism is, as the name implies, often used to describe theories that have at their base a class of privileged self-evident truths, from which all else is inferred. In ethics, the assumption would be that the base truths would be very general. This is not Huemer's position, as he makes plain on p. Indeed, on his view, perhaps no belief is evidentially unchallenged. I agree with him that our beliefs should be deemed innocent until proved guilty, but, as I am sure he would agree, that view does not entail that any belief will be wholly exonerated because no evidence can be found against it.

Huemer's view is thus quite unlike, say, Ross's theory, and it might have been helpful to emphasize that fact more.

Ethical Intuitionism: A Philosophical Breakthrough? | Escape Velocity

Indeed, I am not sure whether Huemer appreciates the distance between his view and Ross's. There is a brief but laudatory discussion of Ross on pp. The second thing worthy of note is Huemer's claim that we can extend the range of PPC to cover intellectual intuition. It has been a commonplace, since Chisholm's seminal work, to distinguish two senses of the word 'seems' or 'looks'.

In sense-perception, things can seem or look a certain way, in virtue of their perceptual appearance. We might call this the phenomenal sense. So when the optician asks the patient to say whether the red spot is above or below the green line she is asking how things look to the patient; she is not asking the patient to judge how things are. And in such cases things can continue to look a certain way even when we know they are not Muller-Lyer illusion; moon near horizon.

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So that to say that the moon looks bigger need not imply anything about one's being inclined to believe that it is bigger. But there is also a sense of 'seems', which we might call its doxastic sense, in which to say that, for example, a certain arithmetical result seems to be correct, is to be inclined to believe or judge that it is correct.

Meta-Ethics - Intuitionism

There does not seem anything especially phenomenal about this experience; there is no way that true correct mathematical judgments look. In general I think Bryan creates too much license for analogical reasoning of this kind. My overall view is that ethical intuitionism settles many fewer issues than most of its proponents like to think.

That said, there is often nowhere else to go. We somehow need to come to terms with two propositions at the same time:.

Anthony Robert Booth and Darrell P. Rowbottom

The content of ethical philosophy tells us less, in reliable terms, than most people would like to believe. Alex Tabarrok Email Alex Follow atabarrok. Tyler Cowen Email Tyler Follow tylercowen. Webmaster Report an issue. Email Address. Toggle navigation. Skip to main content Accessibility information. Site tools A-Z Lists. Home Enlighten Publications.

Enlighten: Publications. Clarifying ethical intuitionism. Abstract In recent years there has been a resurgence of interest in Ethical Intuitionism, whose core claim is that normal ethical agents can and do have non-inferentially justified first-order ethical beliefs.

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