Ethics Makes Strange Bedfellows: Intuitions and Quasi-Realism

You know the story. You have a few intuitions. You propose a few theories that fit them. It’s a living. Of course, things are more complicated than this. We are sensitive to counterexamples raised by others and wish to accommodate or explain away an ever-wider base of intuitive starting points. And a great deal of the action occurs in rational reflection that can alter what is intuitive, and in theorizing that overturns formerly justified beliefs and moves us to new justified beliefs. Details aside, this method in ethics and elsewhere—of first relying on intuitions to form justified beliefs, and subsequently using best-fit (or reflective equilibrium) theorizing on all justified beliefs to move to other justified beliefs—has received a lot of critical attention lately. But it is not a bad method. It is a good method caught in a bad relationship. For its presumptive metaethical companion, realism, would have us believe that intuitions support beliefs about real, stance-independent facts of the matter. That strikes many as dubious. After sorting through some relevant concerns in this vicinity, I argue that the solution is not to reject intuitional methods but to embrace quasi-realism.
Keywords ethical intuition  ethical epistemology  quasi-realism  methods in ethics
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