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Ethical Intuitionism 2005th Edition

4.6 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0230573741
ISBN-10: 0230573746
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Editorial Reviews


'Read this. It is the best book ever written on meta-ethics. Even philosophers who know the field may feel as though they are confronting these issues for the first time. I used to think of ethical intuitionism as a silly, naIve, even ridiculous theory, but Michael Huemer has made an intuitionist out of me.' - Stuart Rachels, Department of Philosophy, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, USA

'Huemer's book may be the best, most comprehensive defense of ethical intuitionism since Moore's Principia Ethica...[it] is an outstanding defense of the view that there are objective moral truths knowable through intuition. Whether or not one agrees with Huemer's conclusions, one cannot ignore the power of his arguments.' - Richard Fumerton, Department of Philosophy, University of Iowa

'A terrific book. Now philosophers will have no excuse for treating ethical intuitionism as if it were a silly and easily-refuted view.' - James W. Nickel, Arizona State University College of Law, USA

About the Author

Michael Huemer is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Colorado at Boulder, USA, where he has worked since 1998. He is the author of Skepticism and the Veil of Perception and Ethical Intuitionism , as well as more than 40 articles in ethics, epistemology, political philosophy, and metaphysics.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 309 pages
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan; 2005 edition (April 15, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0230573746
  • ISBN-13: 978-0230573741
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #218,588 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Like another reviewer, I started out agreeing with Huemer's basic claim, having concluded some forty-five years ago that the intuitionist position provided the most satisfactory explanation of normative beliefs. I read the book in part in the hope that he could provide better arguments than I had come up with, in particular a better rebuttal of what I view as the most serious challenge to our position. Unfortunately, he doesn't.

He does do a very good good job of demonstrating that ethical intuitionism is a defensible position and offering arguments to show that most of the alternatives, including ones that are much more widely accepted, are not. But he does not provide an adequate response to the one challenge I am concerned with, the view that combines ethical nihilism with evolutionary psychology.

The claim of that view is that there are no normative facts, that nothing is good or bad and there is no moral reason to do or not do anything. It explains our moral beliefs, the intuitions that Huemer views (and I view) as imperfect perceptions of normative facts, as explainable by evolution--they were beliefs that increased the reproductive success of those who held them in the environment in which we evolved, and so got hard wired into their descendants.

That approach challenges intuitionism in two ways. First, it explains the evidence, my ethical intuitions, on the basis of facts of reality I already believe to be true. Once we have one explanation there is no need for another.
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Format: Paperback
I agree with Huemer on most things. In Ethical Intuitionism he defends a thesis of objective moral properties, which are not reducible to ordinary, descriptive "natural" properties, and that we know at least some moral truths non-inferentially (what he calls rational intuition). His argument is almost entirely negative in that it consists of arguments against the metaethical alternatives. He does a good job taking them down, but it could use more by way of a positive case... and he doesn't spend much time at all dealing with error theory (a point best descrived by Richard Garner in Beyond Morality, although his thesis is quite different). To him, morality is committed to categorical reasons, which resonates strongly with me.
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Format: Hardcover
This is an outstanding defense of the straightforward view that there are objective ethical facts, that such facts are not reducible to other kinds of (e.g. natural) facts, and that some of these ethical facts are simply seen to be true without being inferred from other things we know.

While the basic elements of this view are straightforward, the philosophical issues related to it are complex. Huemer does an excellent job of seeing to the heart of the matter and explaining his position in a clear fashion. He follows the tried-and-true procedure of laying out his own view, criticizing alternatives to it, and defending it against a variety of objections. Huemer's defense of ethical intuitionism against assorted objections is a real strength of the book. He considers both popular and more philosophical objections, and his replies are challenging. Any intellectually honest person who has considered and rejected ethical intuitionism (or some view labeled "ethical intuitionism") will want to read this book (and many others *should* read it whether they want to or not).

The book is very reader-friendly; much of it is accessible to non-philosophers and more technical sections are identified as such and can be skipped by non-specialists without disruption of the main thread of argument. It also contains a very helpful analytical table of contents.

Students, professional philosophers, and interested laypersons will find much of value in this book. The only significant drawback of the book is its price. I very much hope that the publisher will produce a paperback version so that the book can reach the wide audience it deserves (and who badly need it).
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Format: Hardcover
This is a fantastic book about metaethics. Metaethics is the study of the meaning of right and wrong, as opposed to just plain ethics, which purports to tell us what's right and what isn't. For example, someone might ask "Is it good to keep promises?" That's an ethics question. But if someone asks "When you say 'It's good to keep promises', what do you mean?" then that's a metaethics question.

Huemer does a great job of explaining his views clearly and supporting them with a lot of strong arguments, in a clear and accessible style. He thinks that moral statements are meaningful and are true or false just like statements about physical reality (this is called moral realism) and that we become aware of moral truths through intuition (hence the book's title). He criticizes all forms of moral subjectivism, which is the view that moral statements can be true or false depending on the speaker's, or society's, attitude or perspective toward the statement.

Huemer also does us hobbyists the favor of clearly marking the parts that are intended primarily for his fellow professional philosophers due to their technical nature and depth of engagement with the literature.

If you are interested in metaethics, or in a clear exposition of moral realism and critique of subjectivism, this is required reading. It helps if you're already familiar with modern moral philosophy -- it's not intended purely for a popular audience -- but if you count philosophy among your interests and hobbies, then you don't need to be an academic to appreciate this book.
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