Moral Intuitions, Reliability and Disagreement

There is an ancient, yet still lively, debate in moral epistemology about the epistemic significance of disagreement. One of the important questions in that debate is whether, and to what extent, the prevalence and persistence of disagreement between our moral intuitions causes problems for those who seek to rely on intuitions in order to make moral decisions, issue moral judgments, and craft moral theories. Meanwhile, in general epistemology, there is a relatively young, and very lively, debate about the epistemic significance of disagreement. A central question in that debate concerns peer disagreement: When I am confronted with an epistemic peer with whom I disagree, how should my confidence in my beliefs change (if at all)? The disagreement debate in moral epistemology has not been brought into much contact with the disagreement debate in general epistemology (though McGrath [2007] is an important exception). A purpose of this paper is to increase the area of contact between these two debates. In Section 1, I try to clarify the question I want to ask in this paper – this is the question whether we have any reasons to believe what I shall call “anti-intuitivism.” In Section 2, I argue that anti-intuitivism cannot be supported solely by investigating the mechanisms that produce our intuitions. In Section 3, I discuss an anti-intuitivist argument from disagreement which relies on the so-called “Equal Weight View.” In Section 4, I pause to clarify the notion of epistemic parity and to explain how it ought to be understood in the epistemology of moral intuition. In Section 5, I return to the anti-intuitivist argument from disagreement and explain how an apparently-vulnerable premise of that argument may be quite resilient. In Section 6, I introduce a novel objection against the Equal Weight View in order to show how I think we can successfully resist the anti-intuitivist argument from disagreement.
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