The Good in the Right

The Good in the Right: A Theory of Intuition and Intrinsic Value

Robert Audi
Copyright Date: 2004
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    The Good in the Right
    Book Description:

    This book represents the most comprehensive account to date of an important but widely contested approach to ethics--intuitionism, the view that there is a plurality of moral principles, each of which we can know directly. Robert Audi casts intuitionism in a form that provides a major alternative to the more familiar ethical perspectives (utilitarian, Kantian, and Aristotelian). He introduces intuitionism in its historical context and clarifies--and improves and defends--W. D. Ross's influential formulation. Bringing Ross out from under the shadow of G. E. Moore, he puts a reconstructed version of Rossian intuitionism on the map as a full-scale, plausible contemporary theory.

    A major contribution of the book is its integration of Rossian intuitionism with Kantian ethics; this yields a view with advantages over other intuitionist theories (including Ross's) and over Kantian ethics taken alone. Audi proceeds to anchor Kantian intuitionism in a pluralistic theory of value, leading to an account of the perennially debated relation between the right and the good. Finally, he sets out the standards of conduct the theory affirms and shows how the theory can help guide concrete moral judgment.

    The Good in the Rightis a self-contained original contribution, but readers interested in ethics or its history will find numerous connections with classical and contemporary literature. Written with clarity and concreteness, and with examples for every major point, it provides an ethical theory that is both intellectually cogent and plausible in application to moral problems.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-2607-0
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-4)

    Moral philosophy is driven by two quests. One is theoretical, the other practical. Philosophers and others who think seriously about ethics want to understand morality: its language and concepts, its requirements and ideals, its evidences and arguments, its connections with human psychology, and many other topics. But they also want to contribute concretely to our morality and to enhance our ability to realize moral standards. This requires determining what those standards are, what they require in specific situations, what factors tend to prevent our fulfilling them, what punishments may be needed for certain violations, and much more. Neither quest can...

  5. 1 Early Twentieth-Century Intuitionism
    (pp. 5-39)

    If we understand intuitionism broadly, as the view that at least some basic moral truths are non-inferentially known, and in that very minimal sense known intuitively, the view is very old. It would go back at least to Thomas Aquinas.¹ It is, however, with the seventeenth- and eighteenth-century British moralists that the view as we know it now began to take shape.² John Stuart Mill criticized this “intuitive school” in the opening chapter ofUtilitarianism, but devoted little space to it. Mill’s great utilitarian successor, Henry Sidgwick, by contrast, discussed intuitionism at length, and it is with him that we...

  6. 2 Rossian Intuitionism as a Contemporary Ethical Theory
    (pp. 40-79)

    The intuitionism Ross developed inThe Right and the Goodremains the statement of the position most often illustratively referred to by writers in ethics, and something close to it is defended by a number of contemporary moral philosophers.¹ But as we saw in Chapter 1, his statement of the view leaves both questions of interpretation and some serious problems. There are difficulties concerning the sense in which intuitions are noninferential, problems in understanding the notion of self-evidence, and a number of philosophical worries confronting intuitionism as a rationalist moral epistemology. This chapter develops a moderate intuitionism that may be...

  7. 3 Kantian Intuitionism
    (pp. 80-120)

    A major merit of Rossian intuitionism is providing moral principles that directly apply to daily life, principles governing promissory commitment, truthfulness, beneficence, reciprocity, justice, reparation, and much more. In this respect the view has an advantage over other major normative theories. Kantianism and utilitarianism, for instance, require interpretation—and sometimes reasoning that is complex or controversial or both—to yield principles that directly apply to everyday action. From Kant’s categorical imperative or Mill’s principle of utility, for example, there is often a long, uncharted distance to moral decision. In recent decades, virtue ethics has sometimes seemed preferable to the leading...

  8. 4 Rightness and Goodness
    (pp. 121-160)

    Intuitionism has been standardly conceived as an uncompromisingly deontological theory. The concept of duty has been regarded as its central normative notion; and although Ross and other intuitionists have recognized the relevance of non-moral intrinsic values to determining our duties, Ross, at least, apparently viewed their bearing on moral conduct as derivative from their role in determining the content of some of our moral duties. Take, for instance, the duty of non-injury. This reflects the negative value of pain, in the sense that a constitutive “aim” of the duty and of the actions that fulfill it is roughly to avoid...

  9. 5 Intuitionism in Normative Ethics
    (pp. 161-196)

    For ethical intuitionism of any plausible kind, there can be non-inferential knowledge of moral truths, including both singular moral judgments and certain general principles. For Kantian intuitionism, there can be both non-inferential and inferential knowledge of Rossian principles, and some of these, including some at least close to those Ross formulated inThe Right and the Good, may be plausibly consideredbothself-evident and groundable in a version of the categorical imperative. For either a Kantian or a Rossian intuitionism, then, there are intuitively plausible principles of prima facie duty. These include most—and perhaps all—of the first-order everyday...

  10. Conclusion
    (pp. 197-202)

    Ethical intuitionism as developed in this book may be viewed in two ways: as an ethical theory and as a full-scale moral philosophy providing both an account of moral principles and judgments—a metaethical account—and a set of basic moral standards. As an ethical theory it is, in outline, the view that there is an irreducible plurality of moral principles that are non-inferentially and intuitively knowable. As a moral philosophy affirming a set of basic moral standards, it provides moral principles that directly apply to daily life: principles governing veracity, fidelity, justice, beneficence, reparation, and much more. Here intuitionism,...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 203-238)
  12. Index
    (pp. 239-244)