Moral Theorizing and Intuition Pumps; Or, Should We Worry about People’s Everyday Intuitions about Ethical Issues?
David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Ezio Di Nucci
Jack Alan Reynolds
Learn more about PhilPapers
The Midwest Quarterly 46 (3):268-283 (2005)
Intuitions are funny things. Intuitions would seem to be these fluid, temporary mental states that we form minute by minute. On the face of it, they would seem to have no real value. But, when we ask whether a particular theory is true, we usually turn to our intuitions. This is nowhere more prevalent than in moral theorizing. When we attempt to show that a particular moral theory is mistaken, we usually present cases that yield counterintuitive results for the theory. For example, take the famous Trolley Car example. Suppose a trolley car is traveling down a steep street and is heading straight for a child. Suppose further that you have the means to push a button that will divert the trolley car to a different track thereby missing the child. But, if you push the button to save the one child, you will kill five other children standing on the other track to which the trolley car will be diverted. So the choice is do not push the button and let one child die, or push the button, saving, the one child, but killing five other children. What do you do? Such cases are common in moral theorizing and our intuitions concerning what we would do in such cases are usually taken as evidence for or against a moral theory. In the trolley car case, a utilitarian would say, ceteris paribus, you should not push the button diverting the trolley car. Since an action is morally right if and only if it produces more net good (say, pleasure), diverting the trolley car would result in more pain in the world and hence be the wrong action. But how do our intuitions evidentially fit into the case? Since our goal is to have a moral theory that coincides with our intuitions about cases, if our intuitions fit with the theory, then we have prima facie evidence for the theory. If our intuitions do not fit, then we have prima facie evidence against the theory. Concerning the trolley car case, if our intuitions are that we should not push the button, thus letting the single child die, then our intuitions count as evidence for the correctness of utilitarian moral theory. If we do not share the intuitions of the utilitarians, then it is said to count as evidence against the correctness of utilitarian moral theory. Thus, it is our intuitions that carry the evidential burden. Since most agents take their intuitions to have significant evidential weight, cases (such as the Trolley Car case) usually indicate something problematic with the theory in question. Yet, there has been considerable interest lately in the status of such a practice. This interest has in part surrounded the issue of whether the cases themselves pose a problem for moral theorizing. Such cases are sometimes called intuition pumps. These thought experiment-style cases are usually taken to elicit intuitions that count for or against a moral theory. But many have claimed that the reliance upon such intuition pumps in moral theorizing is unjustified. In this paper I will investigate this claim. First, I lay out what I take to be the problem of intuition pumps. In particular, the problem will surround (1) there always being the possibility of constructing new cases that “pump” people’s intuitions to the other side of a moral debate and (2) there being systematic and patterned disagreement as to what the “correct” intuitive response for a given case is. Next, I give an account of the structure and evidence-conferring status of intuitions. Then, given this account, I illustrate how we can and why we should appeal to the intuitions of experts to solve the problem of intuition pumps. Thus, I hope to show that the problem of intuition pumps is not a problem for moral theorizing. That is, the use of intuition pump-style cases in moral theorizing is prima facie justified.
|Keywords||No keywords specified (fix it)|
|Categories||categorize this paper)|
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
|Through your library|
References found in this work BETA
No references found.
Citations of this work BETA
No citations found.
Similar books and articles
Guy Kahane (2013). The Armchair and the Trolley: An Argument for Experimental Ethics. Philosophical Studies 162 (2):421-445.
Kevin Tobia, Wesley Buckwalter & Stephen Stich (2013). Moral Intuitions: Are Philosophers Experts? Philosophical Psychology 26 (5):629-638.
Bryce Huebner & Marc D. Hauser (2011). Moral Judgments About Altruistic Self-Sacrifice: When Philosophical and Folk Intuitions Clash. Philosophical Psychology 24 (1):73-94.
Jennifer Zamzow & Shaun Nichols (2009). Variations in Ethical Intuitions. In Ernest Sosa & Enrique Villanueva (eds.), Metaethics. Wiley Periodicals, Inc. 368-388.
Brian Weatherson (2003). What Good Are Counterexamples? Philosophical Studies 115 (1):1-31.
James McBain (1999). The Role of Theory Contamination in Intuitions. Southwest Philosophy Review 15 (1):197-204.
J. Fischer, Moral Opposites - An Examination of Intuitions Concerning the Amoralist and the Moral Saint.
Joel Pust (2000). Intuitions as Evidence. Routledge.
James Woodward & John Allman (2007). Moral Intuition: Its Neural Substrates and Normative Significance. Journal of Physiology-Paris 101 (4-6):179-202.
Christian Nimtz (2010). Saving the Doxastic Account of Intuitions. Philosophical Psychology 23 (3):357-375.
Moti Mizrahi (2013). Why the Argument From Zombies Against Physicalism is Question-Begging. The Reasoner 7 (8):94-95.
Elke Brendel (2004). Intuition Pumps and the Proper Use of Thought Experiments. Dialectica 58 (1):89–108.
Added to index2011-06-08
Total downloads69 ( #58,723 of 1,790,408 )
Recent downloads (6 months)6 ( #141,987 of 1,790,408 )
How can I increase my downloads?