Ethical Intuitions: What They Are, What They Are Not, and How They Justify

American Philosophical Quarterly 45 (3):253-270 (2008)
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There are ways that ethical intuitions might be, and the various possibilities have epistemic ramifications. This paper criticizes some extant accounts of what ethical intuitions are and how they justify, and it offers an alternative account. Roughly, an ethical intuition that p is a kind of seeming state constituted by a consideration whether p, attended by positive phenomenological qualities that count as evidence for p, and so a reason to believe that p. They are distinguished from other kinds of seemings, such as those which are content driven (e.g., the sensory experience that a stick in water seems bent) and those which are competence driven (e.g., the intellectual seeming that XYZ is not water, or that one of DeMorgan’s laws is true). One important conclusion is this: when crafting a positive theory of justification ethical intuitionists have fewer resources than intuitionists in other domains, not because of the subject matter of ethical intuitions, but because of the their structure. A second conclusion is that the seemings featured in substantive ethical intuitions deliver relatively weak justification as compared to other seeming states.



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Matthew Bedke
University of British Columbia

Citations of this work

Defeating phenomenal conservatism.Clayton Littlejohn - 2011 - Analytic Philosophy 52 (1):35-48.
Intuitive non-naturalism meets cosmic coincidence.Matthew S. Bedke - 2009 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 90 (2):188-209.
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What we owe to each other.Thomas Scanlon - 1998 - Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
The meaning of 'meaning'.Hilary Putnam - 1975 - Minnesota Studies in the Philosophy of Science 7:131-193.
Moral realism: a defence.Russ Shafer-Landau - 2003 - New York: Oxford University Press.
Ethical Intuitionism.Michael Huemer - 2005 - New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
Moral skepticisms.Walter Sinnott-Armstrong - 2006 - New York: Oxford University Press.

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