Intuitionism

When one describes a person as "good," or when one says of an action that it is "the right thing to do" under the circumstances, is one pointing out an objective feature of the person or action, or is one expressing one's own subjective reaction? Is one stating something that could be either true or false? Is one making a claim that could be supported by reasons or evidence, and that would warrant the assent of any rational human being? Or is one merely giving voice to one's own attitudes or feelings? Much of the contemporary debate in moral epistemology turns on the answer to these questions.

Intuitionists, chief among whom were G. E. Moore and W. D. Ross, insist that moral terms such as "good" and "right" name objective properties, refer to real aspects of real things, events, activities, and persons, and claim that we have access to these properties by a form of direct insight or perception. Because of this, moral statements are genuine propositions capable of being assigned a truth value of "true" or "false." To use a technical, philosophical term, morality is "cognitive." Intuitionists, while drawing an analogy between sensory intuition and moral intuition, also generally insist that moral intuition is different in kind from sense perception. While sense perception acquaints us with objective facts, moral intuition acquaints us with equally objective values.

According to G. E. Moore's Principia Ethica (1903), "good" is a simple, unanalyzable concept. Like the property concept "yellow," "good" cannot be defined except by pointing out instances of the concept, which enables one to grasp its unitary meaning. Unlike "yellow," which denotes a property intuited by our ordinary sensory apparatus, "good" names a nonnatural property, which, despite the fact that it is not empirically given, is nonetheless just as objective and real as is the property "yellow." W. D. Ross, in The Right and the Good, expands Moore's table of simple, objective moral properties to include "duty," or "rightness," and the degrees of rightness that attach to conflicting prima facie duties in different circumstances.

Intuitionists like Moore do not deny that there is moral knowledge; in fact, they affirm it emphatically. But for both Moore and Ross, our knowledge of what is ultimately good or right is not inferred or deduced but immediately given; we do not need to define, rationalize, or justify it. Thus a physician, deciding to remove an irreversibly brain-dead patient from a respirator, might give reasons for her decision by citing the beneficial consequences (e.g., an end to the patient's fruitless suffering) that might be achieved, or by insisting that the duty to preserve life is trumped by the higher duty to preserve a patient's dignity. But as to why these consequences are good, or why these putative duties are duties, the intuitionist physician can rightfully appeal only to her perception of the basic quality of goodness or rightness in them. Look and you too shall see.

The very immediacy of moral knowledge poses a serious problem for the intuitionist, namely, how moral argument and moral disagreement are possible. According to Moore, one either "sees" that something is good or one doesn't, and if one doesn't, there's little to be done except to look again. But what if two or more competent moral agents persistently "see" different values in the same circumstances? Who is "seeing" what is really there, and who is "seeing" a moral illusion? The intuitionist faces the difficulty of accounting for genuine moral disagreement—disagreement not about the empirical, factual issues of how to bring about the greatest good or do one's duty, but the evaluative issue of what sorts of things are genuine, intrinsic goods or actual obligations. This faculty of moral intuition is therefore curious. It is supposed to yield insight into objective properties of things, outcomes, deeds, and institutions, yet it lacks any public criterion against which claims like "X is good" or "Y is the morally right thing to do" might be checked and rationally validated.

Beat The Battle With The Bottle

Beat The Battle With The Bottle

Alcoholism is something that can't be formed in easy terms. Alcoholism as a whole refers to the circumstance whereby there's an obsession in man to keep ingesting beverages with alcohol content which is injurious to health. The circumstance of alcoholism doesn't let the person addicted have any command over ingestion despite being cognizant of the damaging consequences ensuing from it.

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