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Publication Date

Fall 2004


Moral theorizing is often characterized as beginning from our intuitions about ethical cases. Yet, while many applaud, and even demand, this methodology, there are those who reject such a methodology on the grounds that we cannot treat people’s intuitions about ethical cases as evidence for or against moral theories. Recently, Shelly Kagan has argued that the reliance upon case-specific intuitions in moral theorizing is problematic. Specifically, he maintains that the practice of using intuitions about cases lacks justification and, hence, we ought to be skeptical about the evidential weight of moral intuitions. This leads Kagan to conclude that we ought to accept an error theory that maintains most of our moral intuitions are mistaken. In this paper, I will look at the arguments Kagan presents in support of such skepticism – the failure of the intuition/observation analogy, the problem of intuitive disagreement, and the problem of kinds of cases. I will argue that each of these arguments is problematic given some features of the nature of intuitions and the nature of the analogy between intuition and observation. Thus, I hope to show that these arguments fail to support Kagan’s skepticism about the use of case-specific intuitions in moral theorizing.


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