Rational Intuitionism

Philip Stratton-Lake

in The Oxford Handbook of the History of Ethics

Published in print January 2013 | ISBN: 9780199545971
Published online April 2013 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Philosophy

Rational Intuitionism

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This chapter discusses rational intuitionism. Rationalists differ from sentimentalists in their moral epistemology and their account of how we acquire basic moral concepts or ideas. For the sentimentalists, moral judgements refer to or express our sentiments, and the ideas of right and wrong, good and bad, are empirically given, and grasped by feeling. Rationalists do not deny that when we judge that some act is wrong we express feelings of disapproval, but deny that this is all that is going on, and regard such feelings as secondary. For rationalist intuitionists, moral judgements are truth-apt claims which, when true, pick out essential moral properties of certain things. Indeed, it was this moral objectivism and essentialism that early intuitionists, such as Cudworth, Clarke, Balguy, and Price, seemed most concerned to prove. Both Moore and Sidgwick are also considered as intuitionists, since they both maintain that their basic principles are self-evident.

Keywords: moral philosophy; moral philosophers; moral judgements; Moore; Sidgwick

Article.  11565 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Moral Philosophy ; Philosophy of Mind

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