Dialogue

Articles

Intuitions in Ethics

Michael D. Baylesa1

a1 University of Florida and National Humanities Center

Philosophers, like ordinary people, are likely to retain practices long after the conditions which justified them have disappeared. At a recent philosophical convention, subtle arguments concerning abortion appealed to intuitions about exceedingly odd cases and allegedly widely agreed upon intuitions (that I doubted were shared by many reflective people). Such appeals to intuitions, especially about particular cases, are quite common among philosophers. Yet, during this century the traditional theoretical bases for such appeals to intuitions have generally been abandoned. New theoretical bases have been developed, but they are of dubious soundness, and even if sound, do not support the appeals to intuitions so commonly made in applied ethics. Perhaps critics of such appeals to intuitions have failed to capture the bit of good sense that is likely to underlie a widespread practice among intelligent and reflective people that seems to outlive its justification.