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INTUITIONISM

What was nineteenth century intuitionism?

To some extent all philosophical systems have a place for intuition: direct knowledge that is non-inferential or cannot be proved by prior argument and for which there is no way to resolve doubts. Mill thought that William Whewell's (1794-1866) philosophy of science was "intuitive," although it was in places quite inferential. However, Whewell did have an explicitly intuitionist moral theory. Other noteworthy nineteenth century intuitionists were William Hamilton, F.H. Bradley, Henry Sidgwick, James Martineau, and, toward the end of the century and into the next, Henri Bergson.

What was William Whewell's intuitionist moral philosophy?

Whewell (1794-1866) claimed that conscience enables direct perception of moral goodness and badness. However, he did not describe conscience as a separate moral faculty but as "reason exercised on moral subjects." Moral rules are primary principles of reason, discoverable by reason itself. He took them to be self-evident necessary truths.

What was Scottish Common Sense Philosophy?

It was the realist view of human knowledge put forth by Thomas Reid (1710-1796) that what we know are real objects in the world and not our ideas, as claimed by David Hume (1711-1776).

Who was William Hamilton?

William Hamilton (1788-1856) was a professor at Scotland's University of Edinburgh. He is famous for his "philosophy of the conditioned" in Scottish Common Sense Phi-

How did John Stuart Mill criticize William Whewell's view of moral intuitionism?

Mill's criticism of Whewell's moral intuitionism was that it implied that morality could not progress because necessary truths are always true. Mill further claimed that Whewell's necessary moral truths would preserve the status quo, and he charged Whewell with conservatively supporting slavery, marriage without women's consent, and cruelty to animals. What Mill missed, however, was that, as with Fundamental Ideas in science, Whewell held that we may not know all of the relevant rules of morality. Thus, discovering these rules allowed for moral progress.

losophy. He agreed with Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) that we cannot know things in themselves, but also with Thomas Reid (1710-1796) about naturalism. Reid's idea that we know things in the world directly and Kant's idea that we do not know things in themselves are contradictory. Hamilton believed that they could be mysteriously combined through intuition.

John Stuart Mill (1806-1873), in An Examination of Sir William Hamilton's Philosophy (1865), vigorously attacked Hamilton's notion that scientific principles are intuitively valid, rather than valid on account of their ability to provide causal explanations, as Mill thought.

What was William Hamilton's philosophy of the conditioned?

Hamilton called "the conditioned" something that has been described or classified, and "the unconditioned" things that are without descriptions or classifications. His philosophy was an attempt to create a balance between the conditioned and the unconditioned. Hamilton wrote that "all that is conceivable in thought lies between two extremes, which, as contradictory of each other, can not both be true, but of which, as mutually contradictory, one must be true.... The law of the mind, that the conceivable is in every relation bounded by the inconceivable, I call the law of the conditioned." Hamilton held the theological belief that the Infinite is "incognizable and inconceivable."

Who was F.H. Bradley?

Francis Herbert (F.H.) Bradley (1846-1924) was a main architect of nineteenth century British idealism, but he was also highly influential as an intuitionist. His principal work was Ethical Studies (1876) in which he sought to explain how morality can be part of individual consciousness and social institutions. He argued that individuals believe that morality is an intrinsic value, which, depending on their social status, they "self-realize" in their actions. Good selves could be actualized only if bad selves were suppressed. Therefore, the good self requires the bad self and morality can never be completely actualized unless oneself "dies" through surrender to Christianity.

 
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