Moral rationalism, also called ethical rationalism, is a view in meta-ethics (specifically the epistemology of ethics) according to which moral truths (or at least general moral principles) are knowable a priori, by reason alone. Some prominent figures in the history of philosophy who have defended moral rationalism are Plato and Immanuel Kant. Perhaps the most prominent figure in the history of philosophy who has rejected moral rationalism is David Hume. Recent philosophers who have defended moral rationalism include Richard Hare, Christine Korsgaard, Alan Gewirth, and Michael Smith (1994).
Moral rationalism is similar to the rationalist version of ethical intuitionism; however, they are distinct views. Moral rationalism is neutral on whether basic moral beliefs are known via inference or not. A moral rationalist who believes that some moral beliefs are justified non-inferentially is a rationalist ethical intuitionist. So, rationalist ethical intuitionism implies moral rationalism, but the reverse does not hold.
Famous quotes containing the word moral:
“The moral sense is always supported by the permanent interest of the parties. Else, I know not how, in our world, any good would ever get done.”
—Ralph Waldo Emerson (18031882)