Ethical intuitionism (also called moral intuitionism) is usually understood as a meta-ethical theory that embraces the following theses:
- Moral realism, the view that there are objective facts of morality,
- Ethical non-naturalism, the view that these evaluative facts cannot be reduced to natural fact.
- The thesis that our intuitive awareness of value, or intuitive knowledge of evaluative facts, forms the foundation of our ethical knowledge.
However, ethical intuitionism is at a minimum a view in moral epistemology according to which some moral truths can be known without inference. That is, the view is at its core a foundationalism about moral beliefs. Of course, such an epistemological view implies that there are moral beliefs with propositional contents; so it implies cognitivism. However, both moral realism and ethical non-naturalism are not essential to the view; most ethical intuitionists simply happen to hold those views as well.
Likewise, sometimes the term "ethical intuitionism" is associated with a pluralistic, deontological position in normative ethics, a position defended by W.D. Ross. However, as is customary in contemporary philosophy, the term "ethical intuitionism" will be used in this article to refer to the general position that there are basic (non-inferential) moral beliefs. Thus, this usage encompasses both empiricist and rationalist accounts of non-inferential moral knowledge. While the empiricist version of ethical intuitionism is standardly called "moral sense theory" (or sometimes "sentimentalism"), there is no standard name for the rationalist version. In this article, the rationalist version of ethical intuitionism will simply be called "rationalist ethical intuitionism".
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“Criminals are never very amusing. Its because theyre failures. Those who make real money arent counted as criminals. This is a class distinction, not an ethical problem.”
—Orson Welles (19151985)