A Posteriori Ethical Intuitionism and the Problem of Cognitive Penetrability

Preston J. Werner*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


According to a posteriori ethical intuitionism (AEI), perceptual experiences can provide non-inferential justification for at least some moral beliefs. Moral epistemology, for the defender of AEI, is less like the epistemology of math and more like the epistemology of tables and chairs. One serious threat to AEI comes from the phenomenon of cognitive penetration. The worry is that even if evaluative properties could figure in the contents of experience, they would only be able to do so if prior cognitive states influence perceptual experience. Such influences would undermine the non-inferential, foundationalist credentials of AEI. In this paper, I defend AEI against this objection. Rather than deny that cognitive penetration exists, I argue that some types of cognitive penetrability are actually compatible with AEI's foundationalist structure. This involves teasing apart the question of whether some particular perceptual process has justification-conferring features from the question of how it came to have those features in the first place. Once this distinction is made, it becomes clear that some kinds of cognitive penetration are compatible with the non-inferential status of moral perceptual experiences as the proponent of AEI claims.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1791-1809
Number of pages19
JournalEuropean Journal of Philosophy
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 John Wiley & Sons Ltd


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