Rawls’s use of the term “intuitionism” is to be distinguished from intuitionism as it is traditionally understood. As traditionally understood, intuitionism refers to moral views whose principles, norms, precepts, and so on are self-evident, apprehended directly, or knowable (or justiiable) independently of inference. (These are claims associated with philosophers G. E. Moore and W. D. Ross.) However, as Rawls uses the term, intuitionism, though compatible with these epistemic commitments, does not require them. Rawls instead uses the term to refer to the structure of a moral view, not its epistemic commitments. That structure is characterized by two or more irreducible first principles without any priority rules for weighing them against one another. That structure differs from both utilitarianism (which contains one such principle and a priority rule) and justice as fairness (which contains more than one such principle and a priority rule).
As Rawls uses the term, intuitionism refers to a moral view that includes two or more irreducible irst principles without any priority rules for weighing them against one another. Instead, when the need arises for weighing them, we are to appeal to intuition – our judgment of which way of balancing them seems best upon relection. Rawls gives the example of a view that uses principles of efficiency and equality to determine a just distribution of wealth. Given two societies that produce the same amount of wealth, the more just society will be the one that distributes its wealth more equally to its members. Similarly, given two societies that contain the same degree of inequality in wealth among their members, the more just society will be the more eficient one – the one that produces more wealth.