UNIVERSITY OF NIGERIA, NSUKKA.
DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL SCIENCES
AN ASSIGNMENT ON:
THE THEORY OF INTUITIONISM
A SEMINAR PRESENTATION IN PARTIAL FULFILMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS OF PHIL.523 (MODERN ETHICAL SYSTEM)
ABAH, GEORGE .O. (REV. FR.)
LECTURER: DR. ENEH
All the ethical theories imply some norm or standard of morality. They not only proclaim the fact that morality exists but also that there is some way of distinguishing the good from the evil, the right from the wrong. Ethical theories do not differ greatly in the actual codes of morality they adopt. The list of approved and disapproved acts, despite some glaring exceptions, is in general much the same. Where they differ most is in their reasons for the approval or disapproval, in the principles on which they base their judgments about morality, that is to say, in the norm or standard by which they judge morality.
Intuitionism, which is our concern in this discussion, is one of these ethical theories. The theory, which is in agreement about the facts with other theories, parts ways from them about the reasons and or the routes to getting and judging the facts. Proponents of this theory think that we have a feel, a sense, an instinct, whatever one wants to call it, that immediately manifests to us what is good and what is evil in the moral sphere, and that this is basically the same in all of us. Our discussion below will unravel more on the teachings, history, and the criticisms for and against the theory. We shall as well attempt a summary and an evaluation of the concept before drawing our conclusions.
THE CONCEPT OF INTUITIONISM
Intuitionism is an ethical theory that teaches that moral knowledge is direct, immediate or intuitive. Making it clearer, Eneh (2001) states that “Intuitionism in ethics is the view that some moral judgments such as goodness, rightness, are known to be by immediate or uninferred knowledge”. Hence, moral actions of a sort could be known to either be right or wrong by an uninterrupted intuition of either their rightness or wrongness, the value of their consequences regardless. It is therefore the doctrine that there are moral truths discoverable by intuition; the doctrine that there is no single principle by which to resolve conflicts between intuited moral rules; the theory that ethical principles are known to be valid through intuition.
Intuitionism is the meta-ethical doctrine claiming that moral principles, rules or judgments are clear and obvious truths that do not need to be supported by argumentation. Apart from this claim, intuitionism postulates a special faculty for the perception of right and wrong. The special faculty is distinct from the intellect. It is possible, the theory posits, to hold some direct, immediate, intuitive knowledge of morality without attributing such knowledge to any special faculty. The theory therefore reasons that any well-meaning person seems to have an immediate sense of what is right and what is wrong. Many who have had hardly any opportunity for moral instruction do nevertheless have a basic moral awareness. The great value of moral instruction is to settle doubtful details, to supply one with cogent reasons, and to bring consistency into one’s moral convictions, but all this is not necessary for the formation of those convictions.
Furthermore, the theory opines that people had moral ideas and convictions long before philosophers developed a formal study of ethics. The pre-philosophical knowledge of right and wrong was not reasoned out and logically criticized. It was therefore a spontaneous knowledge occurring to the mind without consciously directed reasoning, and hence it must come from some intuitive or insightful activity of the mind in recognizing the right and the wrong and discriminating between them. In the same light, our reasoning on...
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