Philosophical Topics 41 (2):175-201 (2013)

Lisa Tessman
State University of New York at Binghamton
A constructivist approach to ethics must include some process—such as Rawls’ (1971) reflective equilibrium—for moving from initial evaluative judgments to those that one can affirm. Walker’s (1998; 2003) feminist version of reflective equilibrium incorporates what she calls “transparency testing” to weed out pernicious, ideologically shaped intuitions. However, in light of empirical work on the plurality of values and on the cognitive processes through which people arrive at moral judgments (i.e. an automatic, intuitive process and/or a controlled reasoning process), I raise one concern: some moral requirements can only be grasped intuitively and should not have to be affirmed from the perspective of other confidently held values. The “requirements of love” (Frankfurt 2004) are one such example; failing to fulfill these requirements is, for someone who loves, unthinkable (Frankfurt 1988); one transgresses the associated values merely by considering sacrificing them. I suggest—citing empirical work on “sacred values” (Tetlock 2000; 2003)—that to subject these requirements to transparency testing would be to transgress them by having “one thought too many” (Williams 1981). One’s confidence in these values, and the authority of these values, depend on an automatic process. I consider the risks, and the necessity, of embracing both intuitive and reasoning processes for affirming the authority of a plurality of moral values.
Keywords value pluralism  reflective equilibrium  feminist ethics  constructivism  moral intuition  moral reasoning  moral judgment  sacred values
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ISBN(s) 0276-2080
DOI 10.5840/philtopics201341221
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