“The Use of Intuitions in Ethical Theory: From the Ptolemaic to the Rational.”
Alastair Norcross, Department of Philosophy, University Colorado, Boulder
— Pretty much all ethical theorizing makes use of intuitions. Intuitive judgments about real or hypothetical cases, and about rules or principles play a central role in both theory construction and criticism. In this paper, I situate the use of various kinds of ethical intuitions in a range of approaches to ethical argument. I describe a rough spectrum of approaches from the ‘Ptolemaic’ at one end to the ‘Rational’ at the other. The Ptolemaic approach takes intuitive judgments about hypothetical (and sometimes actual) cases to be (almost) fixed data points, which the correct theory has to accommodate. The Rational approach treats such intuitions as fairly easily revisable, in light of considerations which may serve to undermine their doxastic significance (such as that the holding of such intuitive judgments may serve the interests of the individual who holds them, or of those who are well placed to influence the intuitive judgments of others). I argue that an approach nearer the Rational end of the spectrum is preferable to one nearer the Ptolemaic end.
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UNLV Philosophy Department