Is there a name for the idea that the best moral philosophy is the simplest one that matches universal moral intuitions (not killing people without a good reason etc), and that moral questions which intuitions differ for (the morality of abortion and eating meat) should be decided by referring to the best moral philosophy produced by this idea?

2 Answers 2


The position you describe seems to be a brand of moral intuitionism, but I haven't heard a name for it yet.

It's worth pointing out, though, that this theory does not work, because there are no such universal moral intuitions (e.g. what constitutes a 'good' reason for killing someone in one society is a 'bad' reason in another society, and vice versa) and the question of which moral theory is the 'best' is itself morally relevant.

  • Agree with the first paragraph. And even though I'm not an intuitionist, I think you're going too far with the second paragraph. Intuitionism is a component in many more theories including the Mencian strain of Confucianism, classical utilitarianism, and virtue ethics. Near-contemporary defenders include G.E. Moore and W.D. Ross (plato.stanford.edu/entries/intuitionism-ethics)
    – virmaior
    May 5, 2015 at 4:42
  • The first part of the second paragraph concerns a purely empirical question, it is not directed against moral intuitionism as a mere component of theories but against taking it as a basis. There are only very few universal moral rules, possibly only the prohibition of having sex with children under twelve years and to not kill people of your tribe. That's about it, if you take other cultures seriously. Consider, for instance, tribes on the Andaman islands, the Amazonas region and Papua New Guinea, as well as the moral views of members of the 'Islamic State', the Nazis, and the Roman Empire. May 6, 2015 at 8:47

Ethical naturalism, specifically moral intuitionism as mentioned by another answer or most frequently referred to as "common sense" moral theory.

According to moral intuitionism, certain basic moral principles are self-evident, and we have direct insight into their truth through our moral intuitions. These moral intuitions serve as the foundation for moral knowledge and judgment. Simplicity is also valued in this approach; if two theories conflict, preference may be given to the simpler explanation.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .