Are Intuitions Good Evidence? [Link]

by XiXiDu 1 min read12th Feb 20118 comments


Ethics leans especially heavily on appeals to intuition, with a whole school of ethicists (“intuitionists”) maintaining that a person can see the truth of general ethical principles not through reason, but because he “just sees without argument that they are and must be true.”6 Intuitions are also called upon to rebut ethical theories such as utilitarianism: maximizing overall utility would require you to kill one innocent person if, in so doing, you could harvest her organs and save five people in need of transplants. Such a conclusion is taken as a reductio ad absurdum, requiring utilitarianism to be either abandoned or radically revised – not because the conclusion is logically wrong, but because it strikes nearly everyone as intuitively wrong.


One central concern for the critics is that a single question can inspire totally different, and mutually contradictory, intuitions in different people. Personally, I’ve often been amazed at how completely I disagree with what a philosopher claims is “intuitively” the case. For example, I disagree with Moore’s intuition that it would be better for a beautiful planet to exist than an ugly one even if there were no one around to see it. I can’t understand what the words “better” and “worse,” let alone “beautiful” and “ugly,” could possibly mean outside the domain of the experiences of conscious beings. I know I’m not alone in my disagreement with Moore, yet I’ve also talked to other well-respected professional philosophers who claim to share his intuition.


I think the article provides some interesting insights into philosophy. It is also food for thought when it comes to metaethics, the psychological diversity of mankind and intuitively wrong versus rationally right.

via Luke Muehlhauser