By Tibor R. Machan
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Additional resources for A Primer on Ethics
The philosophical pragmatist holds that moral principles should afford effective means of helping us reach practical goals. Someone can be pragmatic in personal matters (small scale) or in social matters (large scale). Either way, the guidelines focus on the way things work to further some interest. John Dewey, Sidney Hook, and Richard Rorty are all metaethical pragmatists, although they do not see eye to eye on many issues. Intuitionism Intuitionism, a somewhat odd form of cognitivism, holds that moral principles arise from deeply held convictions or beliefs known to be true not because of argument or analysis but because of gut feelings.
Free will might also illuminate the odd things that people do which do not fit into the theory of mechanical causation associated with physics. We know, for instance, that some people with bad childhoods tum into decent citizens, while others become crooks. In this area empiricism would clearly not help us. Free will is weird. Thinkers sometimes object to the notion of free will because nonhuman beings in nature do not exhibit it. It is argued that because dogs, cats, lizards, fish, and frogs have no free will, we are being arbitrary when we impute it to human beings.
Intuitionism Intuitionism, a somewhat odd form of cognitivism, holds that moral principles arise from deeply held convictions or beliefs known to be true not because of argument or analysis but because of gut feelings. We all have moral intuitions, and we should trust them. Even people who have never explored ethics have moral sentiments. These feelings furnish our best guide to how we should conduct ourselves. The basic idea here is the same as that in the old saw about woman's intuition: we should base our morality on the innate wisdom that we all have and not on the dictates of some fancy theory.