Intuitionism follows from Paul’s doctrine of no excuse

Intuition by: Paul B

Intuition by: Paul B
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Robert Audi defines ‘intuitionism as an ethical theory to be, in outline and in a minimal version, the view that there is at least one moral principle that is non-inferentially and intuitively knowable.’[1] He describes a ‘generic intuitionism’ as the ‘stronger view, on which there is a group of at least several such moral principles (such as we find in W. D. Ross and others)’[2] Lastly, he describes ‘an intuitionism’ as a ‘specific intuitionist theory’ that ‘also incorporates a particular set of basic moral principles that directly apply to daily life.’[3]

I think it’s fairly clear that Paul’s doctrine of no excuse (in Romans 1:18-2:1) implies (generic) ethical intuitionism (i.e. [1] and [2] but not [3]).  Since we are all without excuse before God for failing to live rightly, it follows that God must have made clear to us sufficient moral truth for us to live rightly.  Since this holds for all people (all ordinary moral agents – infants and those with severe mental disability excepted), it means there can’t be difficult moral reasoning required to arrive at the moral truth we need to live. Therefore the moral truth we need to live must be available to us all be a combination of intuition and simple deduction.
The standard objection to intuitionism is that people intuit different moral truths.  This is true, but doesn’t imply that intuitionism is false.  The reason for our differences is that because of our sin, we all have flawed intuitions, which point us in the wrong direction, at various times and in various ways.  The fact that intuition doesn’t always work, doesn’t mean it shouldn’t work.  It should always work, it’s our fault when it doesn’t, and the fact that it doesn’t points to our need for Jesus.
But for now, the main point is that Christians ought to believe a form of moral intuitionism.

[1] Robert Audi, ‘Intuitions, Intuitionism, and Moral Judgment’ (ed. Jill Graper Hernandez; London: Continuum International Publishing Group, 2011), 172.

[2] Audi, ‘Intuitions’, 172.

[3] Audi, ‘Intuitions’, 172.

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