Contemporary Science and Natural Explanation: Commonsense by Denis J. Hilton

By Denis J. Hilton

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28 26 CHAPTER ONE His positive point, applied to promising, is in part that when one thinks clearly about what it is to promise a particular friend to do something, one can see that doing the deed is called for and would be right, barring special circumstances such as a medical emergency. His negative point, in the Rossian terminology just introduced, is something like this: from a general description of the grounds that yield a prima facie duty, for instance from the description of an act of mine as a promise, it does not follow that the duty (here the duty to keep the promise) is not overridden; nor is it self-evident that it is not in fact overridden, however clear that may be in many cases.

Indeed, given Ross’s quite reasonable insistence that a certain mental maturity is needed to apprehend the truth of his principles of duty, defeasibility might be expected. For surely when a maturing person reaches just the minimal threshold for justification, plausible arguments by credible people could defeat it. In the hands of powerful skeptics, such arguments can perhaps defeat much justification that goes well beyond that threshold. Even if self-evidence were the main element that is intuitively apprehended, Ross would be entitled to hold—and in fact stresses—that there can be conflicts of moral “convictions” in which some are given up “just as” in scientific inquiry some perceptions are given up as illusory (see the quotation above from pp.

They appear to have thought that there are not even premises that ground justified belief of self-evident propositions and thereby a potential inferential basis of the intuitions having those propositions as their content. Given the close association in some intuitionist writings between the non-inferentiality of intuitions and the ungroundability thesis, as we might call it—the view that what is intuitively known cannot be (evidentially) grounded in premises—it is important to stress something about that thesis.

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