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ethical intuitionism

Understanding ethical intutionism is complicated by the fact that the term has been used to refer to quite different philosophical theses. This posting outlines the key concepts involved and their relation to one another.

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In the twentieth century, the term 'ethical intuitionism' has had two main uses. Firstly, from the 1860s to 1920s it was a name for an ethical theory defined by a commitment to pluralism, or more particularly, unranked pluralism. Intuitionism in this sense is usually distinguished as methodological intuitionism. Pluralism is the doctrine that there is a plurality of moral principles, and unranked pluralism adds the additional claim that none of these moral principles are more basic than any other. Methodological intuitionism stands in contrast, then, with forms of monism?the view that there is only one basic moral principle?notably utilitarianism, and Kantianism, and varieties of ranked pluralism, which hold that some duties are more important than others. In illustration, a Kantian would argue that duties of promise keeping, and a ...