The issue of coherence and consistency in Rossian epistemology is the one which is controversial among Rossian intuitionists. According to these intuitionists, Ross thinks that both incoherency and inconsistency among moral convictions can give us negative reason/justification to discard at least some of these moral convictions. Although Ross did not explicitly consider the issue of the positive reason that coherence gives us reason to believe in some propositions, it is possible (cf. Ewing) to interpret his ethical theory as a theory that considers coherence as a positive reason.
However, it seems that there is a problem here: is coherence or consistency compatible with intuitionistic foundationalism (self-evidence idea)? In other words, can Ross think of coherence or consistency as providing justification for self-evident justification? I think - and some intuitionists as well – the answer is “yes”. As it is argued before, although some basic moral principles/propositions are self-justifying , this does not mean that they cannot be justified in other ways. This means that in order for a proposition to be a self-evident it needs an epistemic justification (sufficient understanding), however, this does not rule out other ways of justification. Bertrand Russell, for instance, famously said the same thing about the propositions of arithmetic. He maintains that although some propositions can be inferred from the general principles of logic, the simple propositions of arithmetic, such as “two and two are four”, are just as self-evident as the principles of logic.
The same idea can also be found in Ludwig Wittgenstein’s On Certainty. He writes:
When one says that such a proposition can’t be proved, of course that does not mean...
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...uld be discovered after further reflection. So, it is not true to say that prima facie beliefs are necessarily infallible. Some of them are fallible and it may be found after reflection that they are false indeed.
Up to now, I tried to outline different important elements of Rossian intuitionist framework (both normative and epistemology). This could help us to have a big picture of what Ross did for moral intuitionism. I also tried to qualify and elaborate some of trivial points within each sections. However, for the purpose of this thesis we need to focus specifically on intuitionists’ epistemology in more depth. So, in the next section I shall evaluate Rossisn intuitionist’s epistemological claims after spelling out each in turn. We need to have a clear mind about Ross’s intuitionist framework before going to discuss contemporary intuitionism in the next chapter.