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What are the strengths and weaknesses of Intuitionism? Evaluate the merits or otherwise of the emotive theory of ethics?

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Introduction

What are the strengths and weaknesses of Intuitionism? Evaluate the merits or otherwise of the emotive theory of ethics? Intuitionism came about as a post-utilitarian perspective, and was largely developed as an ethical theory by Moore, Pritchard and Ross. As the name of the theory tells us it is concerned with humans intuition, Sidgwick came to the conclusion that ethics was not based on a unifying principle but rather on human intuition. Today, an intuitionist is thought of as someone who holds particular views about the way in which we come to find out what actions are right and which are wrong. Apparently, we group basic moral principles because of our 'intuition'. Moral principles are capable of being true and known through a special faculty; 'moral intuition'. W.D. Ross and Pritchard, claimed that they are 'facts' about what is morally right and wrong and that our understanding of these is sufficient to deserve the title 'knowledge'. We know that something is good by intuition: it is self-evident, "good is something known directly by intuitionism"1 G. ...read more.

Middle

A weakness of the system is to assume that we can know A because of B. We cannot, in fact, say something is right because we intuit it to be that way. An intuitionist would say that humans only have their moral hunches and intuitions to guide them, so we have to rely on this by default. Unlike the scientific world in the world of morals, an intuitive moral decision is often held to be right because the person feels it to be so. This can be seen as a criticism of intuitionism because moral decisions making is more of an art form that an exact science. The apparent weaknesses of intuitionism could be summed up by saying when asking 'why should I be good?' 'Because you just know you should'. Emotivism, as its name suggests, is the moral theory based on people's emotive responses to other people, events, situations, viewpoints and principles. Emotive response in this context is simply referring to a person's feelings about something. ...read more.

Conclusion

I have to force myself against my feelings, reasoning that her life is sacred, and I have no right to play God. Another problem with the relativism inherent in Emotivism is the difficulty of deciding where to draw the line of tolerance. If a Satanist is preaching hatred or murder as a 'good' thing in his eyes should he be opposed vociferously, or in any other way, or not at all? After all, if he feels the emotion of hatred is the best basis of his moral code; from an emotive-relativist point of view I should do nothing unless he actually harms someone. Moreover, Alasdair McIntyre believes that Emotivism is bankrupt as an ethical theory because it lacks any moral absolutes. According to McIntyre the implications of Emotivism on society would be that social relations become manipulative because each person relates to everyone else morally in terms of their own individual emotions, not in terms of absolute moral values. This leads to people being a means to our own ends, instead of being ends in themselves. 1 H. A. Pritchard, Moral Obligations 2 G. E. Moore, Principia Ethica Thomas Taylor ...read more.

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