Ethical Realism

May 18, 2011

W. D. Ross’s Intuitionism, a Moral Theory

Filed under: ethics,philosophy — JW Gray @ 6:00 am
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W. D. Ross‘s theoretical understanding of morality explained in The Right and the Good was not meant to be fully comprehensive and determine right and wrong in every situation, but he doesn’t think it is ever going to be possible to do so. He denies that there is one single overarching moral principle or rule. Instead, he thinks we can make moral progress one step at a time by learning more and more about our moral duties, and do our best at balancing conflicting obligations and values.


October 19, 2010

Review of Robert Audi’s The Good in the Right

Robert Audi’s The Good in the Right (2004) attempts to offer a comprehensive understanding of morality that incorporates W. D. Ross’s moral intuitionism, Kant’s categorical imperative, and intrinsic values. I will summarize Audi’s major claims and assess their plausibility. The moral realist view that morality is irreducible to non-moral properties is traditionally the “intuitionist” project, and “intuitionism” is traditionally based on the idea that we know moral facts from “intuition”—and “intuition” is traditionally viewed as a realization that something is true based on self-evidence.1 First, Audi argues that Ross’s intuitionism is “intuitive” and can help us determine our “prima facie duties.” He defends a moderate form of intuition and argues that many arguments against self-evidence are based on misunderstandings. Second, he argues that the categorical imperative can be used as a way to ground intuitionism and help us choose between conflicting duties. Third, he argues that an understanding of intrinsic value can be used as a way to further ground our duties. (more…)

August 26, 2010

Moral Reasoning Without Moral Theories

Someone once suggested that we might not need moral theories to reason about morality. I found this to be an intriguing idea despite not fully knowing how it could be done, but I now understand why moral reasoning does not require a moral theory. There are at least four ways to reason about morality without theory: (more…)

August 20, 2010

Moral Theories (Normative Theories of Ethics)

Normative theories of ethics or “moral theories” are meant to help us figure out what actions are right and wrong. Popular normative theories include utilitarianism, the categorical imperative, Aristotelian virtue ethics, Stoic virtue ethics, and W. D. Ross’s intuitionism. I will discuss each of these theories and explain how to apply them in various situations. (more…)

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