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Michael Huemer. University of Colorado, Boulder. Abstract. This book defends a form of ethical intuitionism, according to which (i) there are objective moral. Ethical Intuitionism is a book (hardcover release: , paperback release: ) by University of Colorado philosophy professor Michael Huemer. Ethical Intuitionism was one of the dominant forces in British moral Michael Huemer, David McNaughton, and Russ Shafer-Landau, are now.

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Intuitionism in Ethics

It is not accidental that my moral beliefs are true, because the moral facts, in general, are necessary; they could not have been otherwise. Furthermore, if intuitions are intellectual seemings, one might ask why certain moral propositions seem true whereas others do not.

Each can be rejected if reasoning, drawing on further ‘appearances’, suggests the initial appearance is misleading. If the moral property of being good, for instance, could be defined in wholly psychological, biological, or sociological terms, then moral truths would turn out to be either psychological, biological or sociological truths, which could then be discovered by empirical research by the appropriate science.

This is not because these things are ‘analytic’, or true by virtue of the definitions of the relevant concepts, since in my view hardly any concepts are definable in the philosophers’ sense 57 ; it is because understanding the nature of a universal inherently tends to cause one to apprehend certain basic facts about it. If intuitions rather than our understanding of their content justify us in believing that content, then intuitionists should understand a self-evident proposition as follows:.

Michael Huemer, Ethical Intuitionism – PhilPapers

It is possible for something to be intrinsically motivating. When you read the skeptical argument as I initially presented it–if the argument sounded reasonable to you–you were ‘intuiting’ all those things.


lntuitionism They are true when the things referred to have the moral property that is ascribed to them by the judgement. These reasons do not apply to the concept of goodness. He describes this approach as ‘foundationalism’ because “we are justified in some beliefs without the need for supporting evidence” p.

Similarly, the intuitionist should be a direct realist about ethics. His discussion is usually clear and cogent, and the points are generally well known, so I will not critique it, but it is worth bringing up at this point an issue about the intended audience of this book.

Moral Knowledge

Huemer’s solution, as I understand it, is to reject the Humean account of normative reasons, and to abandon the claim that only desires can motivate, while retaining moral belief internalism — the view that moral beliefs can be inherently motivational.

The concept of water seems superficial in the same way. He should not say that intuition functions as a kind of evidence from which we … infer moral conclusions. In both cases empirical science seems well-suited to complete this picture by investigating the property or substance that has these distinctive effects, or surface features.

They do not say that our understanding provides that justification, or that when we believe it, we believe it on the basis of our understanding. Though these propositions seem true to some, the relevant appearances do not count as ‘intuitions’ because they depend on other beliefs. We are not interested here in discussing the view that no one can know moral truths because no one can know anything whatsoever.

If coming to see that something is good is coming to see that we have reason to have a pro-attitude towards it, then it would be no surprise if rational individuals come to have a pro-attitude towards perceived goods, any more than it would be surprising if rational beings come to do what they judge they ought to do. It would have been much simpler to drop the dualism of appearance and belief and interpret ‘seems’ statements in the moral realm doxastically.


Some will say that ‘guarantees’ is too strong; all I need say is ‘renders highly probable’.


One could try to explain away these apparently conflicting intuitions with the doctrine of double effect. Others have dealt with this issue more thoroughly etuical conclusively.

These philosophers will have thought long and hard about the relevant propositions, and we would hope have a very clear understanding of them. So the mystery is how we could know of something that is causally impotent.

This derives from our knowledge that spinsterhood contains or implies unmarriedness. But how would the occurrence of some mere subjective mental state render probable a proposition about the external world? For Huemer, ‘appearance’ “is a broad category that includes mental states involved in perception, memory, introspection, and intellection” p. Huemer aims to make his book accessible to the well-informed philosophical amateur — a laudable aim, given the general importance of these issues.

Second, I think that in the last several years, if not earlier, the doctrine has been shown to be untenable. This is not to say that our moral views are not revisable ethocal the light of empirical findings.

Subjectively we cannot tell one from the other, but they are, one might argue, very different states. The thesis of the transparency of perception, like the parallel thesis of the transparency of intuition, is a phenomenological one: