Michael Huemer's book is a vigorous defense of ethical intuitionism. Since different folks mean different things by this term, I should say that Huemer's conception can be briefly summarized as the view that there are irreducibly normative or evaluative properties which things states of affairs, events, people, etc. Some moral truths are known intuitively; that is, non-inferentially, but not through sense-experience. Huemer's book is, in parts, polemical: it is designed to persuade and, in my view, his arguments for his central claim are indeed persuasive. In delivering that verdict, it is only fair to warn the reader that I needed no persuading, being already a convinced ethical intuitionist.
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Ethical intuitionism also called moral intuitionism is a view or family of views in moral epistemology and, on some definitions, metaphysics. It is at its core foundationalism about moral knowledge; that is, it is committed to the thesis that some moral truths can be known non-inferentially i.
Such an epistemological view is by definition committed to the existence of knowledge of moral truths; therefore, ethical intuitionism implies cognitivism.
As a foundationalist epistemological position, ethical intuitionism is to be contrasted with coherentist positions in moral epistemology, such as those that depend on reflective equilibrium.
Despite the name "ethical intuitionism", ethical intuitionists need not though often do accept that intuitions of value or of evaluative facts form the foundation of ethical knowledge; the common commitment of ethical intuitionists is to a non-inferential foundation for ethical knowledge, regardless of whether such a non-inferential foundation consists in intutions as such.
Throughout the philosophical literature, the term "ethical intuitionism" is frequently used with significant variation in its sense. This article's focus on foundationalism reflects the core commitments of contemporary self-identified ethical intuitionists. Sufficiently broadly defined, ethical intuitionism can be taken to encompass cognitivist forms of moral sense theory. While there were ethical intuitionists in a broad sense at least as far back as Thomas Aquinas , the philosophical school usually labelled as ethical intuitionism developed in Britain in the 17th and 18th centuries.
Hare it is questionable whether Kant is an intuitionist. In the 19th century, ethical intuitionism was considered by most British philosophers to be a philosophical rival of utilitarianism , until Henry Sidgwick showed there to be several logically distinct theories, both normative and epistemological, sharing the same label.
Inspired by this, 20th century philosopher C. Broad would coin the term " deontological ethics " to refer to the normative doctrines associated with intuitionism, leaving the phrase "ethical intuitionism" free to refer to the epistemological doctrines. Ethical intuitionism was popular in the early twentieth century, particularly among British analytic philosophers.
This is a mistake, Prichard argued, both because it is impossible to derive any statement about what one ought to do from statements not concerning obligation even statements about what is good , and because there is no need to do so since common sense principles of moral obligation are self-evident.
Prichard was influenced by G. Moore , whose Principia Ethica argued famously that goodness was an indefinable, non-natural property of which we had intuitive awareness. Moore originated the term " the naturalistic fallacy " to refer to the alleged error of confusing goodness with some natural property, and he deployed the Open Question Argument to show why this was an error.
Unlike Prichard, Moore thought that one could derive principles of obligation from propositions about what is good. Ethical intuitionism suffered a dramatic fall from favor by the middle of the century, due in part to the influence of logical positivism , in part to the rising popularity of naturalism in philosophy, and in part to philosophical objections based on the phenomenon of widespread moral disagreement.
Stevenson 's emotivism would prove especially attractive to Moorean intuitionists seeking to avoid ethical naturalism. Some recent work suggests the view may be enjoying a resurgence of interest in academic philosophy. Robert Audi is one of the main supporters of ethical intuitionism in our days.
His book, The Good in the Right , claims to update and strengthen Rossian intuitionism and to develop the epistemology of ethics. Michael Huemer's book Ethical Intuitionism also provides a recent defense of the view. Furthermore, authors writing on normative ethics often accept methodological intuitionism as they present allegedly obvious or intuitive examples or thought experiments as support for their theories.
Because it was not until Sidgwick that it was clear there were several distinct theses sharing the label "ethical intuitionism", the term has developed many different connotations. This is liable to cause confusion; for example, G. Moore 's Principia Ethica is often considered a locus classicus defense of ethical intuitionism, yet Moore explicitly refuses the label because of the large number of differences between his own views and traditional intuitionists.
However, none of these positions are essential to the view; most ethical intuitionists such as G. Moore and W. Ross simply happen to have held those views as well. Furthermore, intuitionists are often understood to be essentially committed to the existence of a special psychological faculty that reliably produces true moral intuitions.
Secondly, sometimes the term "ethical intuitionism" is associated with a pluralistic, deontological position in normative ethics , a position defended by most ethical intuitionists, with Henry Sidgwick and G. Moore being notable exceptions.
Robert Audi , Ch. Audi hence uses the label "intuitivists" to refer to people who are intuitionists without labeling themselves as such. On this broad understanding of intuitionism, there are only a few ways someone doing moral philosophy might not count as an intuitionist.
First, they might really refrain from relying on intuitions in moral philosophy altogether say, by attempting to derive all moral claims from claims about what certain individuals desire. Second, they might deny foundationalism in favor of say coherentism. Third, they might be non-cognitivists, holding that moral "beliefs" aren't really beliefs at all. Some use the term "ethical intuitionism" in moral philosophy to refer to the general position that we have some non-inferential moral knowledge see Sinnott-Armstrong, a and b —that is, basic moral knowledge that is not inferred from or based on any proposition.
However, it is important to distinguish between empiricist versus rationalist models of this. Some, thus, reserve the term "ethical intuitionism" for the rationalist model and the term "moral sense theory" for the empiricist model see Sinnott-Armstrong, b, pp. However, the terminology is not ultimately important, so long as one keeps in mind the relevant differences between these two views. Generally speaking, rationalist ethical intuitionism models the acquisition of such non-inferential moral knowledge on a priori , non-empirical knowledge, such as knowledge of mathematical truths; whereas moral sense theory models the acquisition of such non-inferential moral knowledge on empirical knowledge, such as knowledge of the colors of objects see moral sense theory.
The rationalist version of ethical intuitionism models ethical intuitions on a priori , non-empirically-based intuitions of truths, such as basic truths of mathematics. Take for example the belief that two minus one is one. This piece of knowledge is often thought to be non-inferential in that it is not grounded in or justified by some other proposition or claim. Rather, one who understands the relevant concepts involved in the proposition that two minus one is one has what one might call an "intuition" of the truth of the proposition.
One intuits the truth of the proposition, rather than inferring it. Likewise, the ethical intuitionist claims that basic moral truths—whether they are principles such as don't kill people or judgments such as it is wrong to kill people —are known without inference, and in particular they are known via one's rational intuition. Some rationalist ethical intuitionists characterize moral "intuitions" as a species of belief for example, Audi, , pp.
Others characterize "intuitions" as a distinct kind of mental state, in which something seems to one to be the case whether one believes it or not as a result of intellectual reflection. Michael Huemer , for example, defines "intuition" as a sort of seeming:. Reasoning sometimes changes how things seem to us.
But there is also a way things seem to us prior to reasoning; otherwise, reasoning could not get started. The way things seem prior to reasoning we may call an 'initial appearance'. 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.
An ethical intuition is an intuition whose content is an evaluative proposition. Regardless of one's definition of rational intuition, intuitionists all agree that rational intuitions are not justified by inference from a separate belief.
Another version—what one might call the empiricist version—of ethical intuitionism models non-inferential ethical knowledge on sense perception. This version involves what is often called a "moral sense". According to moral sense theorists, certain moral truths are known via this moral sense simply on the basis of experience, not inference.
One way to understand the moral sense is to draw an analogy between it and other kinds of senses. Beauty, for example, is something we see in some faces, artworks and landscapes. We can also hear it in some pieces of music. We clearly do not need an independent aesthetic sense faculty to perceive beauty in the world.
Our ordinary five senses are quite enough to observe it, though merely observing something beautiful is no guarantee that we can observe its beauty. In the same way, a color-blind person is not necessarily able to perceive the green color of grass although he is capable of vision.
Suppose we give a name to this ability to appreciate the beauty in things we see: one might call it the aesthetic sense. This aesthetic sense does not come automatically to all people with perfect vision and hearing, so it is fair to describe it as something extra, something not wholly reducible to vision and hearing. As the aesthetic sense informs us about what is beautiful, we can analogically understand the moral sense as informing us of what is good. People with a functioning moral sense get a clear impression of wrongness when they see puppies being kicked, for example.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. This article is about the term in moral epistemology. For the book by Michael Huemer, see Ethical Intuitionism book. Main article: Moral sense theory.
Ross Robert Audi C. Lewis [ citation needed ]. Moral blindness Moral sense theory Ethical non-naturalism. European Journal of Philosophy. Princeton University Press. Ethical Intuitionism and Ethical Naturalism. In Ethical Intuitionism: Re-evaluations. Oxford University Press.
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Ethical Intuitionism was one of the dominant forces in British moral philosophy from the early 18 th century till the s. It fell into disrepute in the s, but towards the end of the twentieth century Ethical Intuitionism began to re-emerge as a respectable moral theory. The most distinctive features of ethical intuitionism are its epistemology and ontology. All classical intuitionists maintain that basic moral propositions are self-evident, [ 1 ] and that moral properties are non-natural properties.
It seems that you're in Germany. We have a dedicated site for Germany. A defence of ethical intuitionism where i there are objective moral truths; ii we know these through an immediate, intellectual awareness, or 'intuition'; and iii knowing them gives us reasons to act independent of our desires. The author rebuts the major objections to this theory and shows the difficulties in alternative theories of ethics. He is the author of Skepticism and the Veil of Perception and Ethical Intuitionism , as well as more than 40 articles in ethics, epistemology, political philosophy, and metaphysics. It is the best book ever written on meta-ethics. Even philosophers who know the field may feel as though they are confronting these issues for the first time.