Intuitions in Moral Inquiry

Michael R. DePaul

Edited by David Copp

in The Oxford Handbook of Ethical Theory

Published in print December 2005 | ISBN: 9780195147797
Published online February 2006 | e-ISBN: 9780199785841 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

Intuitions in Moral Inquiry

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This chapter begins with a weak understanding of intuitions as beliefs that do not result from more familiar sources, but that the person currently holds simply because the proposition believed seems true to the person upon due consideration. Nearly all moral inquiry makes significant use of moral intuitions. Reflective equilibrium is perhaps the most sophisticated intuitionistic approach to moral inquiry. It modifies the usual understanding of reflective equilibrium by arguing that inquirers must not merely mold their moral intuitions into a coherent system via a process of mutual adjustment, but must also strive to enhance their competence at making moral judgments. It then considers and rejects an argument for the reliability of moral intuitions that takes them to provide evidence regarding our own moral concepts. Finally, it defends reflective equilibrium by arguing that there is no sensible alternative to accepting the intuitions we have after full reflection, which is, in essence, what reflective equilibrium does.

Keywords: intuition; moral intuition; moral inquiry; reflective equilibrium; moral concepts

Chapter.  14728 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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