Moral knowledge, epistemic externalism, and intuitionism

Ratio 21 (3):329-343 (2008)
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This paper explores the generally overlooked relevance of an important contemporary debate in mainstream epistemology to philosophers working within ethics on questions concerning moral knowledge. It is argued that this debate, between internalists and externalists about the accessibility of epistemic justification, has the potential to be both significantly influenced by, and have a significant impact upon, the study of moral knowledge. The moral sphere provides a particular type of strong evidence in favour of externalism, and mainstream epistemologists might benefit from paying attention to this fact. At the same time, the terrain of moral epistemology (approached as a sub-field of metaethics) needs to be reshaped by the realisation that externalists can steal the thunder of intuitionists when it comes to knowledge constituted by seemingly self-evident beliefs.1.

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Daniel Star
Boston University


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