This book defends a form of ethical intuitionism, according to which (i) there are objective moral truths; (ii) we know some of these truths through a kind of immediate, intellectual awareness, or "intuition"; and (iii) our knowledge of moral truths gives us reasons for action independent of our desires. The author rebuts all the major objections to this theory and shows that the alternative theories about the nature of ethics all face grave difficulties.
Ethical Intuitionism was the dominant moral theory in Britain for much of the 18th, 19th and the first third of the twentieth century. However, during the middle decades of the twentieth century ethical intuitionism came to be regarded as utterly untenable. It was thought to be either empty, or metaphysically and epistemologically extravagant, or both. This hostility led to a neglect of the central intuitionist texts, and encouraged the growth of a caricature of intuitionism that could easily (...) be rejected before moving on to 'more serious' philosophical theories. More recently, however, this hostility towards ethical intuitionism has subsided. A wide range of moral philosophers, from Aristotelians, to rule-consequentialists, to expressivists, Kantians and deontologists, are beginning to look to the ethical intuitionists's work as a positive resource. It is, therefore, a good time to get clear on what it was that intuitionists said, and re-evaluate their contribution to our understanding of morality. This volume is the first serious engagement with ethical intuitionism in the light of contemporary developments in ethical theory. It contains essays by eminent moral philosophers working in very different traditions whose aim is to clarify and assess ethical intuitionism. Issues addressed include whether the plurality of basic principles intuitionists adhere to can be grounded in some more fundamental principle; the autonomy of ethics and self-evidence; moral realism and internalism; and the open question argument and naturalism. (shrink)
I argue that, given evidence of the factors that tend to distort our intuitions, ethical intuitionists should disown a wide range of common moral intuitions, and that they should typically give preference to abstract, formal intuitions over more substantive ethical intuitions. In place of the common sense morality with which intuitionism has traditionally allied, the suggested approach may lead to a highly revisionary normative ethics.
According to moral intuitionism, at least some moral seeming states are justification-conferring. The primary defense of this view currently comes from advocates of the standard account, who take the justification-conferring power of a moral seeming to be determined by its phenomenological credentials alone. However, the standard account is vulnerable to a problem. In brief, the standard account implies that moral knowledge is seriously undermined by those commonplace moral disagreements in which both agents have equally good phenomenological credentials supporting their (...) disputed moral beliefs. However, it is implausible to think that commonplace disagreement seriously undermines moral knowledge, and thus it is implausible to think that the standard account of moral intuitionism is true. (shrink)
Perennial philosophers' hopes are unlikely victims of swift, natural deduction. Yet anti-realism has been thought one. Not hoping for anti-realism myself I here show it, lest it be underestimated, to survive the following argument, adapted from W. D.Hart pp. 156, 164-5; he credits first publication to Fitch).
Rationalism about the psychology of moral judgment holds, among other things, that the justifying moral reasons we have for our judgments are also the causally effective reasons for why we make those judgments. This can be called the ‘effectiveness’-thesis regarding moral reasoning. The theory that best exemplifies the thesis is the traditional conscious reasoning-paradigm. Current empirical moral psychology, however, poses a serious challenge to this thesis: it argues that in fact, emotional reactions are necessary and sufficient to account for moral (...) judgment, and that typically, moral reasoning is a matter of mere confabulation. In this survey, the empirical challenge to this thesis made by the ‘social intuitionist’ model of moral judgment and reasoning is discussed. The model claims that moral reasoning is essentially ineffective and, psychologically speaking, a matter of mere post hoc-rationalizations of cognitively impenetratable gut reactions. Several interpretations of this evidence are discussed and it is shown that there is room for a psychology of moral reasoning that can account for the available empirical evidence and yet does not have to give up the most central elements of a normative picture of moral reasoning. (shrink)
In the recent metaethical literature there has been significant interest in the prospects for what I am denoting ‘Perceptual Intuitionism’: the view that normal ethical agents can and do have non-inferential justification for first-order ethical beliefs by having ethical perceptual experiences, e.g., Cullison 2010, McBrayer 2010, Vayrynen 2008. If true, it promises to constitute an independent a posteriori intuitionist epistemology, providing an alternative to intuitionist accounts which posit a priori intuition and/or emotion as sources of non-inferentially justified ethical beliefs. (...) As it is formulated, it is plausible that a necessary condition for the view is the truth of Ethical Perception: normal ethical agents can and do have perceptual experiences as of the instantiation of ethical properties. In this paper a sophisticated and promising account of Ethical Perception is offered. Extant objections are shown to fail. However, it will be argued that it is far from obvious that the account of Perceptual Intuitionism which emerges constitutes an independent alternative to other intuitionist accounts. This is because we have reason to think that ethical perceptual experience may be epistemically dependent on other epistemic sources, e.g. a priori intuition or emotion. (shrink)
Sensibility theorists such as John McDowell have argued that once we appreciate certain similarities between moral values and secondary qualities, a new meta-ethical position might emerge, one that avoids the alleged difficulties with moral intuitionism and non-cognitivism. The aim of this paper is to examine the meta-ethical prospects of this secondary-quality analogy. Of particular concern will be the extent to which McDowell’s comparison of values to secondary qualities supports a viewpoint unique from that of the moral intuitionist. Once we (...) disentangle the various metaphysical and epistemological strands of McDowell’s analogy, McDowell’s position might appear closer to moral intuitionism than initially supposed. This discussion will also help clarify the intended meaning of the secondary-quality analogy, as well as its significance for ethics more generally. (shrink)
Over the last decade there have been various attempts to use empirical data about people’s dispositions to choose to undermine various moral positions by arguing that our judgements about what to do are unreliable. Usually they are directed at non-consequentialists by consequentialists, but they have also been directed at all moral theories by skeptics about morality. Walter Sinnott-Armstrong has been one of the leading proponents of such general skepticism. He has argued that empirical results particularly undermine intuitionist moral epistemology. This (...) paper is an attempt to look at what intuitionists should say in response. Consider the following argument : Regress (R1) If any person S is ever justified in believing a normative claim that p then S must be able to infer p from other beliefs of S. (shrink)
The aims of this paper are twofold: firstly, to say something about that philosophy of mathematics known as 'intuitionism' and, secondly, to fit these remarks into a more general message for the philosophy of mathematics as a whole. What I have to say on the first score can, without too much inaccuracy, be compressed into two theses. The first is that the intuitionistic critique of classical mathematics can be seen as based primarily on epistemological rather than on meaning-theoretic considerations. (...) The second is that the intuitionist's chief objection to the classical mathematician's use of logic does not center on the use of particular logical principles (in particular, the law of excluded middle and its ilk). Rather on the role the classical mathematician assigns (or at least extends) generally (i.e. regardless of the particular principles used) to the use of logic in the production mathematical proofs. Thus, the intuitionist critique of logic that we shall be presenting is far more radical than that which has commonly been presented. -/- Concerning the second, more general, theme, my claim is this: some restriction of the role of logical inference in mathematical proof such as that mentioned above is necessary if one is to account for the seeming difference in the epistemic conditions of provers whose reasoning is based on genuine insight into the subject-matter being investigated, and would-be provers whose reasoning is based not on such insight, but rather on principles of inference which hold of every subject-matter indifferently. (shrink)
Thinking about morality -- Story of contemporary intuitionism -- Moral knowledge -- New challenges to intuitionism -- Grounds of morality -- Right and the good reconsidered -- Intuitionism's rivals -- Being moral: how and why.
Ethical intuitionists regard moral knowledge as deriving from moral intuition, moral observation, moral emotion and inference. However, moral intuitions, observations and emotions are cultural artefacts which often differ starkly between cultures. Intuitionists attribute uncongenial moral intuitions, observations or emotions to bias or to intellectual or moral failings; but that leads to sectarian ad hominen attacks. Intuitionists try to avoid that by restricting epistemically genuine intuitions, observations or emotions to those which are widely agreed. That does not avoid the problem. It (...) also limits epistemically genuine intuitions, observations or emotions to those with meagre content, and the intuitionists offer no plausible explanation for how inference from such insubstantial propositions can engender substantial moral knowledge. Instead of moral knowledge, intuitionism offers the prospect of mutual name-calling between intellectually stagnant groups. I criticise and reject the principle of phenomenal conservatism, to which intuitionists sometimes appeal. (shrink)
According to moral intuitionism, moral properties are objective, but our cognitions of them are not always based on premises. In this paper, I develop a novel version of moral intuitionism and argue that this new intuitionism is worthy of closer attention. The intuitionistic theory I propose, while inspired by the early twentieth-century intuitionism of W. D. Ross, avoids the alleged errors of his view. Furthermore, unlike Robert Audi's contemporary formulation of intuitionism, my theory has the (...) resources to account for the noninferential character of particular, as opposed to merely general, moral beliefs. I achieve this result by avoiding the appeal to self-evidence to explain the possibility of noninferential moral knowledge. (shrink)
According to a posteriori ethical intuitionism, perceptual experiences can provide non-inferential justification for at least some moral beliefs. Moral epistemology, for the defender of AEI, is less like the epistemology of math and more like the epistemology of tables and chairs. One serious threat to AEI comes from the phenomenon of cognitive penetration. The worry is that even if evaluative properties could figure in the contents of experience, they would only be able to do so if prior cognitive states (...) influence perceptual experience. Such influences would undermine the non-inferential, foundationalist credentials of AEI. In this paper, I defend AEI against this objection. Rather than deny that cognitive penetration exists, I argue that some types of cognitive penetrability are actually compatible with AEI's foundationalist structure. This involves teasing apart the question of whether some particular perceptual process has justification-conferring features from the question of how it came to have those features in the first place. Once this distinction is made, it becomes clear that some kinds of cognitive penetration are compatible with the non-inferential status of moral perceptual experiences as the proponent of AEI claims. (shrink)
Recent empirical work suggests that intuitions may be less reliable than previously assumed. However, given the ubiquity of intuition in philosophical reasoning, it is tempting to give intuitions some evidential weight. This chapter develops an account called ‘moderate intuitionism’, a view whereby intuitions are generally reliable, but nonetheless capable of substantial degrees of error. Believing that the general reliability of intuition emerges from the nature of language, the chapter develops an outline for a disposition-based metasemantic theory which can ground (...) the link between intuition and truth: terms refer to whatever a speaker would be disposed to apply them to when in possession of all relevant information. Well-constructed thought experiments can elicit intuitions and generally reflect the semantic facts but this account can also explain why intuitions occasionally err — i.e. when a thought experiment fails to specify information that would influence the speaker’s dispositions. (shrink)
The study of moral decision-making presents to us two approaches for understanding such choices. The cognitive and the neurocognitive approaches postulate that reason and reasoning determines moral judgments. On the other hand, the intuitionist approaches postulate that automated intuitions mostly dominate moral judgments. There is a growing concern that neither of these approaches by itself captures all the key aspects of moral judgments. This paper draws on models from neurocognitive research and social-intuitionist research areas to propose an integrative cognitive–intuitive model (...) of moral decision-making. The model suggests that moral decision-making includes five interdependent, yet functionally distinct steps, issue framing, pre-processing, moral judgment, moral reflection, and moral intent. The model proposes a cognitive–intuitive view of moral judgment and it describes how emotion regulation, perceived moral intensity, and perceived ethical climate constructs impact the formation of moral intent. The paper discusses the theories that link emotions to moral judgment and implications of the model for future research and its implication for managers. (shrink)
Putnam's intuitionist proposal for a logic of vague terms is defended. It is argued that both classical logic and the degrees of truth approach are committed to treating vague terms as having hidden precise borderlines. This is a crucial failing in a logic of vagueness. Intuitionism, because of the nature of intuitionist negation, avoids this failing.
This paper outlines and defends a moderate intuitionism. The point of departure is the intuitionism of W. D. Ross (1930) in The Right and the Good, conceived as ethically pluralist and epistemologically rationalist. The paper articulates a conception of self-evidence – including mediate as well as immediate kinds – appropriate to a moderate intuitionism, explores some of the resources and varieties of that position, and considers some problems and prospects for a rationalist version of intuitionism. The (...) final section addresses the issue of how best to conceive the nature and grounds of prima facie duty, the problem of whether intuitionism can adequately deal with conflicts of prima facie duties, and the question of how satisfactorily a moderate intuitionism can account for the epistemic status of moral judgments of overall duty and their connection with rational action. (shrink)
In this paper, I defend a non-skeptical intuitionist approach to moral epistemology from recent criticisms. Starting with Sinnott-Armstrong's skeptical attacks, I argue that a familiar sort of skeptical argument rests on a problematic conception of the evidential grounds of our moral judgments. The success of his argument turns on whether we conceive of the evidential grounds of our moral judgments as consisting entirely of non-normative considerations. While we cannot avoid skepticism if we accept this conception of our evidential grounds, that's (...) because accepting this conception of our evidential grounds is tantamount to accepting the skeptic's conclusion. We have nothing to fear from arguments for skepticism from skepticism. (shrink)
Walter Sinnott-Armstrong has developed and progressively refined an argument against moral intuitionism—the view on which some moral beliefs enjoy non-inferential justification. He has stated his argument in a few different forms, but the basic idea is straightforward. To start with, Sinnott-Armstrong highlights facts relevant to the truth of moral beliefs: such beliefs are sometimes biased, influenced by various irrelevant factors, and often subject to disagreement. Given these facts, Sinnott-Armstrong infers that many moral beliefs are false. What then shall we (...) think of our own moral beliefs? Either we have reason to think some of our moral beliefs are reliably formed or we have no such reason. If the latter, our moral beliefs are unjustified. If we have reason to think some moral beliefs are reliably formed, then those beliefs are not non-inferentially justified, because then we’ll have reason to accept something—namely, that they are reliably formed—that entails or supports those beliefs. But then, either way, our moral beliefs are not non-inferentially justified, and so moral intuitionism is false. This paper takes issue with Sinnott-Armstrong’s interesting and widely discussed argument, which we here call the Empirical Defeat Argument (EDA). According to us, the EDA does not defeat moral intuitionism. In section 1, we will set out the argument, briefly reviewing the rationale Sinnott-Armstrong offers for the premises. Then, in section 2, we identify a critical but dubious epistemological assumption concerning the nature of defeat that undergirds the argument. Finally, in section 3, we will defend our challenge to the EDA by answering two objections. (shrink)
After sketching the essentials of L. E. J. Brouwer’s intuitionistic mathematics—separable mathematics, choice sequences, the uniform continuity theorem, and the intuitionistic continuum—this chapter outlines the main philosophical tenets that go hand in hand with Brouwer’s technical achievements. It presents his views about general and mathematical phenomenology and shows how these views ground his positive epistemological and ontological positions and his stinging criticisms of classical mathematics and logic. The chapter then turns to intuitionistic logic and its philosophical side. It first sets (...) out the basic meta-logical technical results, then discusses the relevant philosophical views—those of Arend Heyting and Michael Dummett. It concludes by tracing intuitionism’s philosophical and technical roots in Aristotle and Kant. (shrink)
It seems impossible that organisms selected to maximize their genetic legacy could also be moral agents in a world in which taking risks for strangers is sometimes morally laudable. Brian Zamulinski argues that it is possible if morality is an evolutionary by-product rather than an adaptation.Evolutionary Intuitionism presents a new evolutionary theory of human morality. Zamulinski explains the evolution of foundational attitudes, whose relationships to acts constitute moral facts. With foundational attitudes and the resulting moral facts in place, he (...) shows how they ground a plausible normative morality, give answers to meta-ethical questions, and provide an account of moral motivation. He explains the nature of moral intuitions and, thus, of our access to the moral facts. He shows that the theory makes confirmed empirical predictions, including the observable variation in moral views. The combination of intuitionism and evolutionary ethics enables Zamulinski to overcome the standard objections to both.Evolutionary Intuitionism is a unified theory of human morality that explains how an objective morality could develop naturally in a physical world like ours, among organisms like us. (shrink)
Wonderfully clear, scholarly, and well argued, Kant’s Intuitionism offers a bold new interpretation of the thesis of the Transcendental Aesthetic. Falkenstein reads Kant as a “formal intuitionist.” That is, he takes Kant to have maintained that the forms of intuition, space, and time were given along with sensations. They were neither preexisting representations, nor intellectual or imaginative constructions out of sensations. In this context “given” contrasts with “constructed”; subjects’ representations of space and time derived from their sensory constitutions. When (...) subjects’ senses were stimulated, that produced sensations with intensities varying according to the stimulus; because of the subjects’ constitutions, the intensity values were ordered after one another in time and adjacent to one another in space. Falkenstein characterizes space and time as “presentational orders” of sensations. (shrink)
This is a long-awaited new edition of one of the best known Oxford Logic Guides. The book gives an introduction to intuitionistic mathematics, leading the reader gently through the fundamental mathematical and philosophical concepts. The treatment of various topics, for example Brouwer's proof of the Bar Theorem, valuation systems, and the completeness of intuitionistic first-order logic, have been completely revised.
Hume bequeathed to rational intuitionists a problem concerning moral judgment and the will – a problem of sufficient severity that it is still cited as one of the major reasons why intuitionism is untenable.1 Stated in general terms, the problem concerns how an intuitionist moral theory can account for the intimate connection between moral judgment and moral motivation. One reason that this is still considered to be a problem for intuitionists is that it is widely assumed that the early (...) intuitionists made little progress towards solving it. In this essay, I wish to challenge this assumption by examining one of the more subtle intuitionist responses to Hume, viz., that offered by Thomas Reid. For reasons that remain unclear to me, Reid's response to Hume on this issue has been almost entirely neglected. I shall argue that it is nonetheless one that merits our attention, for at least two reasons. In the first place, Reid's response to Hume's challenge to rational intuitionism bears a close affinity to the type of response that he offers to Hume's broadly skeptical challenge to realist views regarding our perception of the external world. Since Reid's strategy in the latter case is widely regarded as exhibiting significant promise, it is natural to wonder whether, when applied to the moral domain, this type of strategy displays similar promise.2 I will suggest that it does. That is, I will suggest that since Reid's broadly nativist position in perception is one well worth considering, then so also is his broadly nativist account of moral motivation. Second, Reid's position regarding moral motivation represents an intriguing attempt to blend a broadly intuitionist view with important insights from the sentimentalist tradition. In this respect, Reid's view is a genuine hybrid position unlike that offered by other intuitionists such as Richard Price. The synthetic character of Reid's position, I claim, gives it a unique type of theoretical richness, since it incorporates some very attractive features of both rational intuitionism and sentimentalism. (shrink)
IntroductionEthical intuitionists have never known quite what to make of the emotions. Generally speaking, these philosophers fall into two camps: rational intuitionists and moral sense theorists. And by my lights, neither camp has been able to tell a convincing story about the exact role and significance of emotion in moral judgment. Rational intuitionists are for the most part too dismissive of the emotions, either regarding emotions as little more than distractions to moral judgment,Samuel Clarke, for instance, after naming our “faculties (...) of reason and will, whereby [we] are enabled to distinguish good from evil,” laments that these faculties are sometimes “imposed upon and deceived in matters of good and evil, right and wrong… by absurd passions and corrupt or partial affections” (A Discourse Concerning the Being and Attributes of God, the Obligations of Natural Religion, and the Truth and Certainty of the Christian Revelation (Glasgow: Richard Griffin and Co., 1823), pp. 166-167). (shrink)
Moral intuitionism is the view that we can know or justifiably believe some moral facts directly, without inferring them from other evidence or proof. While intuitionism is frequently dismissed as implausible, the theory has received renewed interest in the literature.See Robert Audi, The Good in the Right: A Theory of Intuition and Intrinsic Value (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2004); Jill Graper Hernandez (ed.), The New Intuitionism (London: Continuum, 2011); Michael Huemer, Ethical Intuitionism (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, (...) 2005); Sabine Roeser, Moral Emotions and Intuitions (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011); Russ Shafer-Landau, Moral Realism: A Defence (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2003); Philip Stratton-Lake (ed.), Ethical Intuitionism: Re-evaluations (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2002). Several philosophers have defended updated intuitionistic theories and argue that the theory is not as objectionable as previously alleged.Contemporary reformulations of moral intuitionism ar. (shrink)
Since the 2004 publication of his book The Good in the Right, Robert Audi has been at the forefront of the current resurgence of interest in intuitionism – the idea that human beings have an intuitive sense of right and wrong – in ethics. The New Intuitionism brings together some of the world’s most important contemporary writers from such diverse fields as metaethics, epistemology and moral psychology to explore the latest implications of, and challenges to, Audi’s work. The (...) book also includes an opening chapter that surveys the development of contemporary intuitionism and a conclusion that lays the ground for future developments and debates both written by Audi himself, making this an essential survey of this important school of ethical thought for anyone working in the field. (shrink)
I define ethical intuitionism as the view that it is appropriate to appeal to inferentially unsupported moral beliefs in the course of moral reasoning. I mention four common objections to this view, including the view that all such appeals to intuition make ethical theory politically and noetically conservative. I defend intuitionism from versions of this criticism expressed by R.B. Brandt, R.M. Hare and Richard Miller.
North .—What is the trouble about moral facts? When someone denies that there is an objective moral order, or asserts that ethical propositions are pseudo-propositions, cannot I refute him by saying: “You know very well that Brown did wrong in beating his wife. You know very well that you ought to keep promises. You know very well that human affection is good and cruelty bad, that many actions are wrong and some are right”? West .—Isn't the trouble about moral facts (...) another case of trouble about knowing, about learning? We find out facts about the external world by looking and listening; about ourselves, by feeling; about other people, by looking and listening and feeling. When this is noticed, there arises a wish to say that the facts are what is seen, what is heard, what is felt; and, consequently, that moral facts fall into one of these classes. So those who have denied that there are “objective moral characteristics” have not wanted to deny that Brown's action was wrong or that keeping promises is right. (shrink)
I argue that, If one adopts a minimal naturalism (of a kind rejected by moore, Hare, "et al".), One would adopt a methodology which yields conclusions identical to that yielded by intuitionistic methodology (of a kind employed by ross, Prichard, "et al".). I dilate upon the advantages which thus accrue to each theory, And I defend my minimal naturalism against a variety of objections.
Strictly speaking, intuitionistic logic is not a modal logic. There are, after all, no modal operators in the language. It is a subsystem of classical logic, not [like modal logic] an extension of it. But... (thus Fitting, p. 437, trying to justify inclusion of a large chapter on intuitionist logic in a book that is largely about modal logics).
Intuitionism’s disagreement with classical logic is standardly based on its specific understanding of truth. But different intuitionists have actually explicated the notion of truth in fundamentally different ways. These are considered systematically and separately, and evaluated critically. It is argued that each account faces difficult problems. They all either have implausible consequences or are viciously circular.
In recent years there has been a resurgence of interest in Ethical Intuitionism, whose core claim is that normal ethical agents can and do have non-inferentially justified first-order ethical beliefs. Although this is the standard formulation, there are two senses in which it is importantly incomplete. Firstly, ethical intuitionism claims that there are non-inferentially justified ethical beliefs, but there is a worrying lack of consensus in the ethical literature as to what non-inferentially justified belief is. Secondly, it has (...) been overlooked that there are plausibly different types of non-inferential justification, and that accounting for the existence of a specific sort of non-inferential justification is crucial for any adequate ethical intuitionist epistemology. In this context, it is the purpose of this paper to provide an account of non- inferentially justified belief which is superior to extant accounts, and, to give a refined statement of the core claim of ethical intuitionism which focuses on the type of non- inferential justification vital for a plausible intuitionist epistemology. Finally, it will be shown that the clarifications made in this paper make it far from obvious that two intuitionist accounts, which have received much recent attention, make good on intuitionism’s core claim. (shrink)
In "Truth" Michael Dummett presents a case for intuitionist logic as the logic of ordinary discourse. The case depends on a supposed need to make two intuitions mesh: first, that it is senseless to suppose, of any statement, that it is neither true nor false; second, that there is no guarantee, for every statement, that either there is something in the world to make it true, or there is something to make it false. This paper argues, developing a notion of (...) natural isostheneia, that Dummett's first intuition is wrong as he reads it, and that, consequently, his case for intuitionist logic collapses. (shrink)
Jonathan Dancy has developed a very refined theory called ethical particularism. He has argued extensively for the metaphysical part of his position. However, the accompanying epistemology is not yet clear. In this paper I will sketch a particularist epistemology that is consistent with Dancy’s particularist metaphysics, although my approach differs in certain respects from epistemological claims Dancy has made. I will defend an epistemology that states: 1. that moral knowledge is based on intuitions and 2. that we need emotions in (...) order to have moral knowledge. I will call this approach ‘affectual intuitionism’. Dancy rejects both claims, but I will argue that his arguments against these claims are not convincing. (shrink)