, Volume 46, Issue 2, pp 319–336 | Cite as

Intuitionism and Nihilism



Intuitionism and nihilism, according to nihilists, have key features in common: the same semantics and the same phenomenology. Intuitionism is the object of nihilism’s attack. The central charge nihilism lodges against intuitionism is that its nonnatural moral properties are queer. Here I’ll examine what ‘queer’ might mean in relation to the doctrines nihilism uses to support this charge. My investigation reveals that nihilism’s queerness charge lacks substance and resembles a tautology served with a frown. There’s really nothing to it. After I show that, I’ll offer an explanation for why nihilism has gotten intuitionism wrong. It makes a central mistaken methodological assumption and doesn’t target any identifiable intuitionism in the last hundred or so years.


Intuitionism Nihilism Queerness Moral epistemology Metaphysical explanation 



I would like to thank the audience members of the 9th Annual Felician Ethics Conference at Felician College, Rutherford, NJ: April 25, 2015 for their helpful comments on an earlier version of this article. I would also like to thank an anonymous reviewer for helpful comments.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The author states that there is no conflict of interest.


  1. Audi, R. (2004). The good in the right: A theory of intuition and intrinsic value. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Bedke, M. S. (2014). A menagerie of duties? Normative judgments are not beliefs about non-natural properties. American Philosophical Quarterly, 51(3), 189–201.Google Scholar
  3. Copi, I. M., & Cohen, C. (1994). Introduction to logic (9th ed.). Englewood Cliffs: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  4. Cuneo, T. (2007). The normative web: An argument for moral realism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Frankena, W. K. (1963). Ethics. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall.Google Scholar
  6. Garner, R. T. (1990). On the genuine queerness of moral properties and facts. Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 68, 137–146.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Hudson, W. D. (1983). Modern moral philosophy (2nd ed.). New York: St. Martin’s Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Huemer, M. (2005). Ethical intuitionism. Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Huemer, M. (2008). Revisionary intuitionism. Social Philosophy & Policy, 25, 368–392.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Hurka, T. (2011). Common themes from Sidgwick to Ewing. In T. Hurka (Ed.), Underivative duty: British moral philosophers from Sidgwick to Ewing. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Hurley, P. J. (2012). A concise Introduction to logic (11th ed.). Boston: Wadsworth.Google Scholar
  12. Joyce, R. (2001). The myth of morality. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Joyce, R. (2009). Is moral Projectivism empirically tractable? Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, 12, 53–75.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Kaspar, D. (2012). Intuitionism. London: Bloomsbury.Google Scholar
  15. Kaspar, D. (2015). How we decide in moral situations. Philosophy, 90, 59–81.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Kaspar, D. (2017). Moral explanation through moral kinds. In L. Taddio (Ed.), New perspectives on realism (pp. 217–238). Mimesis International: Milan.Google Scholar
  17. Mackie, J. L. (1977). Ethics: Inventing right and wrong. New York: Penguin.Google Scholar
  18. Miller, A. (2003). An Introduction to contemporary Metaethics. Oxford: Polity.Google Scholar
  19. Moore, G. E. (1903). Principia Ethica. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  20. Nowell-Smith, P. H. (1954). Ethics. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books.Google Scholar
  21. Olson, J. (2014). Moral error theory: History, critique, Defence. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Platts, M. (1980). Moral reality and the end of desire. In M. Platts. (Ed.), Reference, truth, and reality: essays on the philosophy of language (pp. 69–82). London: Routledge and Kegan Pau.Google Scholar
  23. Prichard, H. A. (1912). Does moral philosophy rest on a mistake? Mind, 21, 21–37.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Robinson, R. (1948). The emotive theory of ethics. Proceedings of the Aristotelean Society, Supplementary Volumes, 22, 79–106.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Ross, W. D. (1930). The right and the good. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  26. Ross, W. D. (1939). Foundations of ethics. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  27. Shafer-Landau, R. (2003). Moral realism: A Defence. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Timmons, M. (1999). Morality without foundations: A defense of ethical Contextualism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophySt. John’s UniversityStaten IslandUSA

Personalised recommendations