Philosophical theorizing is often, either tacitly or explicitly, guided by intuitions about cases. However, recent empirical work has suggested that philosophically significant intuitions are variable and unstable in a number of ways. This variability of intuitions has led naturalistically inclined philosophers to disparage the practice of relying on intuitions for doing philosophy in general and for doing moral philosophy in particular. In this paper, we introduce into the debate some neglected naturalistic reasons to be optimistic about intuitions, focusing especially on ethical intuitions. Philosophers of science have long celebrated the importance of diversity for scientific progress. Similarly, we argue, we should celebrate the diversity in ethical intuitions. In science, diversity leads to greater recognition of errors and background assumptions; something similar is likely true for ethical theory. In addition, we argue that there is a natural psychological explanation for why diversity would lead to improved reasoning in individual scientists – disequilibrium and motivated reasoning stimulate sharper criticism and evaluation. The cognitive virtues afforded by disequilibrium and motivated reasoning would also extend to reasoning in the ethical domain. Thus, there are good reasons for moral theorists to welcome the variations in ethical intuitions.
“Variations in Ethical Intuitions”
October 22, 2009 by Rico Vitz