Ethical Theory and Moral Practice

, Volume 17, Issue 2, pp 237–252 | Cite as

Reflective Equilibrium Without Intuitions?

  • Georg Brun


In moral epistemology, the method of reflective equilibrium is often characterized in terms of intuitions or understood as a method for justifying intuitions. An analysis of reflective equilibrium and current theories of moral intuitions reveals that this picture is problematic. Reflective equilibrium cannot be adequately characterized in terms of intuitions. Although the method presupposes that we have initially credible commitments, it does not presuppose that they are intuitions. Nonetheless, intuitions can enter the process of developing a reflective equilibrium and, if the process is successful, be justified. Since the method of reflective equilibrium does not essentially involve intuitions, it does not constitute a form of intuitionism in any substantial sense. It may be classified as intuitionist only in the minimal sense of not reducing justification to a matter of inference relations alone.


Reflective equilibrium Intuition Intuitionism Justification Foundationalism Coherentism 



Earlier versions of this paper have been presented in Berne, Constance, Potsdam, Tübingen and Zürich. I would like to thank the audiences as well as Christoph Baumberger, Claus Beisbart, Monika Betzler, Anne Burkard, Michael DePaul, Catherine Elgin, Anton Leist and Peter Schaber for helpful discussions and comments.


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of ZurichCentre for EthicsZurichSwitzerland
  2. 2.ETH ZurichInstitute for Environmental DecisionsZurichSwitzerland

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