Monday, February 10, 2003

Those Are the Rules

God of the Machine presents a scathing indictment of a certain member of the Court. Aaron quotes and fisks:

"General propositions do not decide concrete cases." OK. Then what does exactly? "The decision will depend on a judgment or intuition more subtle than any articulate major premise." Intuition. This is what remains after we abandon concrete and abstract propositions alike.

Aaron has taken me to task for rejecting rule-based reasoning in ethics. (It may be that rules should have a greater role in law than in ethics, but leave that aside.) Yet, I share with him a disdain for intuitionism. The point is that intuitionism is not the only option to rule-based moral reasoning. Here's another option.

Intuitionism, as a theory or stance in ethics, is nothing more than a refusal to give reasons. Even when the opponent points out incoherence, the intuitionist simply says, "Well, my intuition shows me that the incoherence is resolved. I can't explain how, and I don't have to; it's intuition." The other option shares with rule-based moral reasoning the assumption that reasons are required. It is more akin to science or empirical reasoning in general than to rule-based reasoning or intuition.