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Moral intuitionism and the challenges of mysteriousness and dogmatism

Mark D Mathewson, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Moral philosophers have given increased attention to moral intuitionism in recent years. Despite articulations of moral intuitionism that should be taken more seriously than they have been, dissenters continue to express opposition. Among the most frequent criticisms of moral intuitionism are the Mysteriousness and Dogmatism Objections. The Mysteriousness Objection charges moral intuitionists with postulating a mysterious faculty of knowing. The Dogmatism Objection accuses moral intuitionists of relying on dogmatic assertions which are not, or cannot be, proven or adequately argued for. In this dissertation I defend moral intuitionism against both attacks. By drawing on resources going back to eighteenth-century intuitionists, I show that a carefully articulated moral intuitionism neither requires a mysterious faculty of knowing nor invites dogmatism. I first investigate the moral intuitionism of four eighteenth-century British philosophers (Samuel Clarke, John Balguy, Richard Price, and Thomas Reid) which anticipates and begins to address the Mysteriousness and Dogmatism Objections. Both critics of and adherents to moral intuitionism in the contemporary period have largely ignored the moral intuitionism of these eighteenth-century thinkers. Two significant contributions of this chapter are that it gives serious attention to the moral intuitionism of the eighteenth-century moral intuitionists, and it prepares for utilizing their views in answering objections to contemporary moral intuitionism. Next, I briefly explicate a plausible version of a moderate moral intuitionism against which the Mysteriousness and Dogmatism Objections are evaluated. Finally, I set out the details of each of these objections and respond to them. The sustained attention I give to these objections is a further significant contribution of this dissertation. I conclude that the Mysteriousness and Dogmatism Objections are not successful attacks on moral intuitionism. ^

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Recommended Citation

Mathewson, Mark D, "Moral intuitionism and the challenges of mysteriousness and dogmatism" (2003). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3116596.