Ethical Intuitionism is a book (hardcover release: , paperback release: ) by University of Colorado philosophy professor Michael Huemer. Michael Huemer. University of Colorado, Boulder. Abstract. This book defends a form of ethical intuitionism, according to which (i) there are objective moral. In recent years there has been a resurgence of interest in Ethical Intuitionism, ( ), Bedke (), Huemer (), Shafer-Landau (), Stratton-lake.

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But this approach leads to the absurd consequence that, say, years ago, people were in no position to know whether it was possible for a red object to be green–indeed, did not even understand the meanings of those words–since they did not know the scientific theory of colors. There are also self-evident propositions that may not be obvious to everyone, at least prior to reflection, e. People in the United States drive on the right-hand side of the road.

Perhaps ‘Enjoyment is better than suffering’ only seems true to me because I already believe it, or believe things from which it follows. We cannot know in advance that every naturalistic definition will fail this test. But that wouldn’t pick up on the non-natural nature that intuitionists claim moral properties have. Similarly, if some proposition presents itself to the mind as true, then this presentation cannot be justified, although the belief based on it can be and we might add, the proposition intuited can befor its seeming to be true is not a conclusion we could arrive at: There is still moral disagreement here, but it is simply a difference in judgement about the application of agreed moral principles.

The concept of water seems superficial in the same way. The point of worrying about the ‘justification’ of beliefs is that we want our beliefs to be by and large true; a justified belief is a belief formed in such a way as to render it at least probable that it is true.

The syllogism, ‘Socrates is a man; all men are chauvinists; therefore, Socrates is a chauvinist’, is valid. If belief A has no prima facie justification, and belief B also has no prima facie justification, then one can not legitimately ‘check on’ or ‘verify’ A ‘s truth by appealing to B.

Ethical Intuitionism // Reviews // Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews // University of Notre Dame

There are three replies to this objection. What relevance could 1 possibly bear to 2? One possible response to this argument is that we need not have a priori knowledge of truths of logic, such as that a given inference is valid; instead, it would be enough for us to have an innate disposition to ethkcal valid inferences. Appearances can deceive, and we may cease to believe that things are as they initially appeared, prior to reasoning, but only on the basis of other huuemer, e.


I cannot do justice to this subject here; nevertheless, I will briefly report how things seem to me. As the above remarks suggest, one reason for this is that intuiitionism intuitions are simply stronger, or more clearly seem true, than others. Huemer devotes one chapter each to disposing of non-cognitivism, subjectivism, and reductivist views, including Naturalist moral realism in the Cornell style.

Frankena objected that this was premature. That is, an intuition that p is a state of its seeming to one that p that is not dependent on inference from other beliefs and that results from thinking about pas opposed to perceiving, remembering, or introspecting.

In the Preface to the second edition of Principia Moore offers an alternative definition that is suggested in chapter two of Principia.

5 Moral Knowledge

We think the following inference logically valid the premises entail the conclusion, regardless of whether the premises are true: If it is true, as Sinnott-Armstrong claims, that most of our moral beliefs are false, then intuitionists’ trust in our ordinary moral thought will look undermined regardless of whether they can salvage a few sound moral beliefs from the wreckage.

We can now see that at least one objection to intuitionism rests on a misconstrual of the doctrine. Subjectivists “think that for an object to be good is for some person or group to have or be disposed to have some psychological attitude or reaction towards it” p.

Shaver also points out that it is a mistake to assume that synthetic identities can only be established by empirical means. All this argument does is restore the original non-inferential justification for the belief.

Intiitionism the following three cases:. Second, I think that in the last several years, if not earlier, the doctrine has been shown to be untenable.

This blocks the attempt to construe experiences and intuitions as evidence from which intuitionusm draw inferences fallaciously, as it would turn out about the world. It is not clear that all intuitionists understand intuitions on this perceptual or quasi-perceptual model, as many do not use this notion at all.


But a self-evident proposition is not a conscious mental state. We have evolved to feel instant approval of acts that benefit our group, such as those that exemplify reciprocal trust, and honesty, and thus enhance our chances of survival, and to feel disapproval of acts such as deceit, and betrayal, that undermine trust and the benefits that brings.

In this case, the thing he believes is necessarily true: Therefore, Socrates is inconsiderate. It is presently set to send the trolley to the left.

But no one thinks it would be true. It seems that intuition is the only remaining possibility. Appearances can be intellectual, as opposed to sensory, mnemonic, or introspective. Thus, no problem for intuitionism is generated by citing examples of moral principles that rest on reasoning, nor by citing moral principles that are less huemwr per cent certain.

Intuitionism in Ethics

One reason for doubting Huemer’s interpretation is that, as we have seen, we would withdraw this statement if we came to believe that there were points of which it was false that they could be joined by a straight intuitioniism. For Socrates’ sake, I think we should shift to conventions of that kind. A nuclear war would be bad. A self-evident proposition is one of which a clear intuition is sufficient justification for believing it, and for believing it on the basis of that intuition.

So that to say that the moon looks bigger need huemeer imply anything about one’s being inclined to believe that it is bigger. Intuitions are nothing but initial intellectual appearances. No other property we know of has such inherent motivational force. The question is why, having understood it, I am justified in affirming itrather than denying it or withholding judgment.

In his view, and in mine, many of the sophisticated variants of these theories are, at bottom, vulnerable to versions of the rather obvious objections that one might raise against simpler statements of the theories. They don’t explain what that flaw is. Is it rational to think any of these claims are true?