to totally crash this thread with a login I've apparently had from days past (I don't know what I wrote in the past, and I don't feel like looking it up. Horrible fallacies probably):1.
In order to defend intuitionism, you do have to overcame the issue of framing effects. What I find to be one of the most devastating studies against this is this one:
Schwitzgabel et al. "Expertise in Moral Reasoning," Mind & Language (2012), 27, 135-153http://www.faculty.ucr.edu/~eschwitz/SchwitzAbs/EthOrder.htm
This is a study in experimental philosophy where professional ethicists and ethics professors well familiar with issues such as trolley cases as well as other people were asked for ethical judgments on a number of issues. And it turns out, the professionals and the lay people are equally affected by framing effects. That is, the ethical judgment (intuition) they give when presented with cases varies to a degree of statistical significance based only on the ordering of the cases.
If ethical intuitions were as stable as you, Hierophant, seem to need them to be, you wouldn't expect ethically irrelevant features to make such a big difference.2.
Going back to a few pages ago, I think it would be helpful to keep some distinctions in mind.Value Theory
is what we use to determine what is good.
This can be either absolutist (pain is bad for everyone, music is good for everyone) or conditional on kind of thing (pain isn't bad for the Borg, music isn't good for dung beetles, but both are bad for humans)
When people say they don't want "metaphysical" ethics, I suppose they don't want values to be ontological primitive non physical things. Ideally, value properties should supervene on physical (or biological, chemical, whatever) properties. Usually naturalists hope to get supervenience relationships of everything on the fundamental physical properties. So, ideally a naturalist value theory would be able to show some supervenience relationship of values on physics (via biology, psychology, etc).Normative Ethics
is the study of theories that are used to determine what actions are good/should be taken. Usually these make you specify a value theory. For example, you could couple a normative theory such as consequentialism (strive to achieve the greatest net good values v.s. bad values) with hedonism (pleasure is valuable), or with desire satisfaction theory (getting what you [really] want is valuable).
There are problems getting either of these off the ground. First, how can we find out whether there are things good or bad for something?
Secondly, how can we find out that we have any obligation to bring about these good things?
Which sortof brings us to what we are doing here:MetaEthics
dealing with the question of whether there are values or norms at all, and if so, what their ontological status is (Are they supervenient on physical things, are they abstract entities, etc.) That is sortof on the same level as asking "What are laws of nature?"
Incidentally, I don't understand why people are so spooked about values that are ontologically non-physical things. That's about on par with being a realist about numbers, sets, properties, propositions, and such matters, and it is very very hard to get a consistent ontology that is thoroughly nominalistic.3.
Keeping these distinctions in mind really helps the discussion to stay focused. For example, intuitionism is primarily a metaethical theory: Values and norms are either supervenient on or discovered by the intuitions of moral agents. And per naturalism and evolution, these intuitions are psychological properties we can study. Moreover, we can theorize about how humans came to have these intuitions through psychology (evolutionary and otherwise).
Interestingly, there is both an epistemic and a metaphysical thesis which needs to be kept distinct. On the one hand, we can claim that our intuitions merely track the moral truths, but that they do not ground them. Ethical truths may be grounded in other things, but we can try to argue that the kind of cognitive mechanisms humans have adequately track these truths. Recent evolutionary debunking arguments have often tried to show that this can't be the case.
On the other hand, we can say that moral truths in fact supervene on the intuitions. That is, if the intuitions were different, then the morals would be different, but the intuitions, as they are, is what makes up the moral truths. That is of course pretty straightforward relativism, and it is seriously threatened by a number of problems.a) Moral disagreement.
If the intuitions disagree, how do the moral truths go? Are only consensus intuitions the 'real' morals? Is this at the current time limited to geographic locations, or is it past and future intuitions as well?b) Framing Effects
- See point 1. above
Our moral intuitions are affected by things that very clearly seem to be non-moral factors. But how could morality be grounded in a mechanism that is affected by input that is obviously non-moral?c) Why should we care? - The value problem
If morality just IS the consensus of our intuitions, how does it give us a reason to act on it? What is the rational connection between
1. "It is wrong to M" is an intuition shared among humans. And
2. I will not M ?