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Mill, Intuitions and Normativity


It is the purpose of this article to offer an account of Mill's metaethics. Expanding upon clues given recently by Dale Miller, and previously by John Skorupski, I suggest that when it comes to the foundations of his philosophy, Mill might share more with the intuitionists than we are accustomed to think. Common wisdom holds that Mill had no time for the normativity of intuitions. I wish to dispute, or at least temper, this dogma, by claiming that Mill's attitude towards intuitions is far more complex and ambivalent than is generally thought. I argue that, according to Mill, our belief in the reliability of inductive moves and apparent memories, as well as the desirability of pleasure, is vindicated by something akin to intuition. Although his endorsement of the normativity of these intuitions might seem to be in tension with the arguments he offers against the ‘intuitionist school’, this tension is only apparent.

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G. Bealer , ‘A Theory of the A Priori’, Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 81 (2000), pp. 130, at 3

J. W. Weinberg , ‘How to Challenge Intuitions Empirically Without Risking Skepticism’, Midwest Studies in Philosophy 31 (2007), pp. 318–43, at 321

E. Sosa , ‘Experimental Philosophy and Philosophical Intuition’, Philosophical Studies 132 (2007), p. 101

J. Skorupski , The Domain of Reasons (Oxford, 2010), pp. 420–41

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  • ISSN: 0953-8208
  • EISSN: 1741-6183
  • URL: /core/journals/utilitas
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