Experiments, Intuitions, and Methodology in Moral and Political Theory<sup>1</sup>

David Copp

in Oxford Studies in Metaethics Volume 7

Published in print June 2012 | ISBN: 9780199653492
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191741661 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Studies in Metaethics

Experiments, Intuitions, and Methodology in Moral and Political Theory1

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Moral and political philosophers commonly appeal to moral “intuitions” at crucial points in their reasoning. This chapter considers recent challenges to this practice—here referred to as “the Method”—based in empirical studies of moral intuitions. It contends that such studies do not justify radical or revisionary conclusions about the Method. A method is aimed at achieving certain goals. The key issue is the nature of the goals in relation to which the Method is to be evaluated. This chapter argues that the relevant goal is not the “realist goal” of discovering the truth about moral and political matters. The central point is that, the chapter argues, the systematic philosophical study of moral and political questions would be worthwhile even if it turned out that moral realism cannot be vindicated or that the Method cannot be vindicated in relation to the realist goal. If this is correct, then the goal relative to which it is crucial to vindicate the Method is not the realist goal. A Rawlsian view is more plausible, according to which the relevant goal is to “characterize our moral sensibility” as it would be in “reflective equilibrium.” It turns out, however, that this Rawlsian view has some, perhaps unwelcome, deflationary implications.

Keywords: Xphi; experimental philosophy; experimental ethics; moral intuitions; intuitions; method; methodology; moral realism; reflective equilibrium; moral sensibility; ultimate goal; proximate goal; trolley problem; Rawls

Chapter.  16815 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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