Morality in a Natural World: Selected Essays in Metaethics (Cambridge Studies in Philosophy)


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Ethics for A-Level

It can capture both sides of our intuitive view. I have presented such a theory before, in my book Morality, Normativity, and Society. My fundamental goal here, however, is to support the viability of moral naturalism. The chief purpose of this introduction is to explain more fully the normativity constraint, as well as moral naturalism, and to introduce the society-centered theory.

A second purpose is to explain how the issues discussed in individual chapters of the book are related to the defense of moral naturalism. In section 1, I explain the normativity constraint. In section 2, I explain why I believe that moral realism is the default view. In section 3, I explain why I believe that naturalism is also a default view. In section 4, I introduce the society-centered theory.

Of course, there are many questions about it that I cannot address here. I believe that the nonconstructivist version is preferable. In section 5, I provide an overview of the book. Compare the propositions that I morally ought to give to famine relief, or that it would be good of me to do so, with the proposition that I rarely give to famine relief.

The latter, nonmoral, claim is simply descriptive of an aspect of my behavior, but the moral claims are not merely descriptive. They are prescriptive or evaluative, and they are prescriptive or evaluative in virtue of what they say, or in virtue of their content. They are normative, and because of this, my belief that I ought to give to famine relief, or that it would be good of me to do so, has a direct and immediate relevance to decisions or choices I might make — a relevance of a kind that a belief that I rarely give to famine relief does not have.

Moral beliefs in general have a 3 Copp a. From the perspective of a moral realist, as I will explain, the normative proposition that honesty is good differs from the nonnormative proposition that honesty is rare only in that they ascribe different properties. The difference between them must therefore lie in the nature of the properties involved. To explain the fact that the proposition that honesty is good is normative, while the proposition that honesty is rare is not, we must take it that the property of being good is normative, while the property of being rare is not normative.

For similar reasons, we need to see other moral properties as normative. An adequate realist theory would need to explain what this normativity consists in. Moral properties, if any exist, are necessarily normative; a property would not count as a moral property unless it were in some way normative. It is a matter of how the property happens to be related to our motivational states. People typically are motivated to avoid wrongdoing, for instance, because of what wrongdoing involves in the treatment of people. But it is a contingent matter that people are motivated in this way, and so, on the Cornell position, it is a contingent matter that moral properties are normative.

Moreover, it appears that the Cornell view would implausibly count sweetness as a normative property, since people are typically motivated to seek sweet things. I believe, then, that Cornell realism does not provide an adequate account of the normativity of moral properties. This failure undermines its defense of moral naturalism, for to show that a natural property could be a moral property, we need to show that a natural property could be normative, and to show this, we need an account of what its normativity would consist in.

Stephen Darwall, Allan Gibbard, and Peter Railton accept my claim that in order to show that a property is a moral property, one must show that it is normative , n. I agree with Cornell realism about this. According to judgment internalism, it is a conceptual truth, and necessarily the case, that if a person judges he or she ought morally to do something, he or she is motivated to some degree to do it.

It might seem that this doctrine accounts for the normativity of moral judgment. I believe, however, that judgment internalism is false. There are familiar arguments against judgment internalism. It appears, for example, that people who are depressed might lack any motivation to do what they believe they morally ought to do, and people with unusual second-order beliefs about morality might also lack appropriate motivation.

I once presented the following putative counter-example to judgment internalism, the case of Alice:7 Alice was raised to believe. She was also raised to believe that God is a vengeful ruler and that He wills us to take an eye for an eye. On the principle of an eye for an eye, Alice believes that capital punishment is obligatory in cases of murder, and she believes she has an obligation to support capital punishment.

Because of her compassion she is not motivated in the least to support capital punishment. She is in fact active in opposing it, even though she believes she is morally forbidden to do so. This case does not seem to be ruled out on conceptual grounds. Or consider the case of Huckleberry Finn.

Huck believes he is morally obligated to turn his friend Jim over to the authorities because Jim is an escaped slave. But Huck does not turn him in, and it seems coherent to suppose that Huck is not motivated in the least to do so. But this is not my objection. My objection is that Cornell realism fails to show the existence of any normative properties, and since moral properties are necessarily normative, it fails to show that there are any moral properties. This is important since, I believe, people resist the counter-arguments to judgment internalism mainly because they do not see how they could otherwise account for the normativity of moral judgment.

Indeed, I think there is a tendency to confuse judgment internalism with the different idea, which I believe to be true, that it is a necessary truth that moral belief is normative. My own view is that normativity is internal to moral judgment although motivation is external to it.

If I am correct, we need a new strategy for explaining normativity. A fully satisfying account of the normativity of moral judgment must explain the link between moral belief and decision. Moral belief has a characteristic kind of direct relevance to decisions, which needs to be explained, and morality may seem to have a kind of final authority over our decisions and actions, which would also need to be explained.

I tackle these issues in chapters 8 through In chapter 8, I systematically explore the difficulty of accounting for the normativity of morality, and I argue that a well-designed naturalistic theory can meet the challenge. In chapter 10, I explain that moral beliefs that flow from our values do have an immediate and direct relevance to rational decision making. The normativity constraint has powerful implications for moral theory.

The constraint rules out, or at least deems to be inadequate, realist theories that fail to explain the normativity of moral properties. It implies that nonnaturalistic theories that postulate sui generis unexplained normative moral properties are inadequate. It also rules out versions of moral naturalism that fail to explain normativity. Moreover, it is natural to think that at least some of our moral beliefs are true.

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For example, some actions are wrong. But the first four doctrines were implicit in my initial intuitive sketch, and the fifth doctrine is intended merely to express the idea that the moral characteristics of things are, quite simply, properties. Moral properties are normative, which means that moral propositions do not merely describe. They also evaluate, or proscribe, or the like. The moral realist says that moral properties have the metaphysical status that any other property has, whatever that is.

Some philosophers would deny that there are any properties at all. They mean to reject the standard philosophical theories about the nature of such characteristics. I am grateful to Thomas Hofweber and Michael Jubien for helpful discussions about the nature of properties. They are not beliefs, strictly speaking. It says in effect that an adequate metaphysics would give the same account of the status of moral properties as it gives of the metaphysical status of nonmoral properties such as meteorological properties.

This leaves it open what this status might be. The core idea of noncognitivism is that the state of mind expressed by a person in making a basic moral claim is not, properly speaking, a belief or any other kind of cognitive state but is, instead, a conative state or a motivational state, akin to a desire. This is difficult to accept. The one seems to be a thought just in the way that the other is a thought. Noncognitivists typically take judgment internalism to support the proposition that moral judgments are motivational states, akin to desires and other conative states.

It is important to recognize, nevertheless, that moral realism is compatible with the view that moral assertions express conative states of mind. For one thing, to account for the workings of moral language, noncognitivism is forced to add complexity to its semantics of a kind that would be avoided on a realist theory. See Copp a, 15— I explore this idea in chapter 5. There are various familiar pejorative and commendatory predicates that, in standard and literal usage, both ascribe properties and express attitudes.

If this is correct, I believe it can explain certain intuitions that lead people to think that a person who has a moral belief must have an appropriate corresponding conative attitude of some kind. Noncognitivist expressivism is not the only alternative to moral realism. According to the error theory there are no moral properties; moreover, because of this, all basic moral propositions are false. But this is very difficult to believe. This argument is important, but I believe it is unsuccessful.

My answer to it is found in chapter 8. There are problems, then, with both of the antirealist alternatives to moral realism. Given this, and given that moral realism is the default position, I focus on developing and articulating a realist position. The proposition that torture is wrong is basic. The proposition that either torture is wrong or torture is widespread is not basic, and nor is the proposition that it is not the case that torture is wrong. There are problems in the interpretation of the theory. On these theories, the error theory would commit Mackie to viewing such sentences as meaningless.

An alternative reading of the theory might take it to say that wrongness is a property that could not possibly be instantiated. Moral properties obviously differ in important ways from psychological, meteorological, and economic properties. Most importantly, they are normative. But the naturalist wants to say that at a fundamental epistemological and metaphysical level, their status is no different from the status of these other properties. I say this because, pre-philosophically, it seems obvious that one can run up against moral goodness and badness and so on in the natural world, just as one can run up against inflationary conditions or hurricanes.

It could lead to cruelty. Goodness could lead a person to do right by others. In this way the moral properties of people can play a psychological role in shaping their actions. To be sure, it is not clear how best to distinguish between natural and nonnatural properties. Intuitively, the natural world is the world around us, the world that we know about and are in contact with by means of the senses. In chapter 1, I propose that, for the purpose of explicating moral naturalism, we should take natural properties to be empirical properties.

That is, a natural property is such that any substantive knowledge we 20 Sturgeon Or better, a property is a natural property just in case any synthetic proposition about its instantiation is empirically defeasible in that there can be empirical evidence that it is false. I argue that evidence that others disagree with a belief that p, and disagree persistently, would be empirical evidence against p — provided that p is synthetic. In chapter 3, however, I express some doubts about this argument. If I am correct that moral naturalism is the default position, moral naturalists do not need to argue for their view.

Of course they do have the burdens of explaining it and of dealing with many serious challenges to it. But if moral naturalism is the default position, those who think it is false must shoulder the burden of presenting arguments against it.


  • Metaethics | Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
  • D.H. Lawrence in the Modern World.
  • Morality in a Natural World: Selected Essays in Metaethics.

If such an identity thesis were true, it would be a conceptual truth. Let EP be such a proposal. EP will not be plausible unless the thesis that moral properties are N is entailed by, or is at least compatible with, most positions that would standardly be classified as versions of moral naturalism. The thesis that moral properties are N is, by the lights of EP, the thesis that best explicates the idea that moral properties are natural, but the fundamental idea that all moral naturalists share is that moral properties are natural, not that moral properties are N.

It is likely that some naturalists will reject EP. I am grateful to Greg Ray and Gene Witmer for helpful discussion of this point. To be sure, such disagreement might mean that we are less justified in our belief than we otherwise would be, and it might be evidence that p is not a conceptual truth. If such a thesis were a conceptual truth, it would not be an open question whether something that is N is also M. For any natural property, Nness, and any moral property, Mness, it is an open question whether something that is N is also M.

Hence no such identity thesis is true. Hence, moral naturalism is false. I discuss this argument very briefly in chapter 4. I believe that premises 2 and 3 are implausible, as Michael Smith, Nicholas Sturgeon, and others have argued. There are no cogent inferences from nonmoral premises to moral conclusions. If such an identity thesis were true, there would be cogent inferences from nonmoral premises to moral conclusions. Hence, naturalism is false. I believe that Sturgeon has also shown this argument to be a failure, so I do not discuss it in this book.

He also argues that the first premise is trivial: a naturalist thinks that Mness is a natural property and thinks, of course, that Mness is identical to Mness. See Sturgeon , 95— Smith rejects the third premise, denying that a conceptual truth must be obviously true.

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See Smith , — See also Copp a, — Moral naturalists need to explicate their view and to answer many significant objections and worries. In my view, the key question is whether moral naturalism can meet the normativity constraint. Jonathan Dancy argues very directly that it cannot. No natural fact is normative, he thinks, because no such fact is directly and immediately relevant to a decision about what to do in the way that a normative fact would be.

Moreover, if no natural fact is normative, then no natural fact is a moral fact. I will here briefly explain the theory and deal with some questions about it that I will not be able to address in the chapters to come. The basic idea is, I believe, intuitively appealing. We need to live in societies, and societies need to be governed by shared norms or standards in order to facilitate beneficial cooperation and coordination among their members.

In light of this, it is plausible that morality has the function of making society possible by providing rules governing our lives that, when they have currency in society, enable society to meet its needs. This is the intuition that underlies the society-centered theory.

A further point is that different moral codes would differ in how well their currency in society would serve this function. Given the intuition about the function of morality, it is plausible to think that a basic moral proposition, such as the proposition that it is wrong to lie, would be true only if the moral code that would best serve this function included or entailed a relevantly corresponding norm, such as a prohibition on lying.

This basic idea might, however, seem to be in tension with moral realism and with the idea that morality has normative importance. For it might suggest that morality is simply a useful set of social rules, and this might suggest in turn that our moral beliefs are simply useful fictions.

Before doing so, I need to explain the theory. Standards I stipulate are the semantic contents expressed by imperatives, and so they are not believed, nor do they represent the world as being one way or another. The standard-based account proposes a schema that can be used to explicate the truth conditions of moral propositions in terms of the status of relevantly corresponding moral standards.

The schema is intended to be applicable to laying out the truth conditions for any kind of normative proposition. Obviously, there is room for disagreement about what this status might be. In chapter 10, I briefly discuss a proposal. The propositions that cursing is rude and that theft is wrong are both pure and basic. It is not impolite to call someone by name although it is impolite to interrupt a conversation.

There are different kinds of normative propositions, including moral propositions, propositions of law, and certain epistemological propositions. The standard-based account leaves us with a key question regarding each of these kinds: What standing must the corresponding standards have as a condition of the truth of propositions of that kind? This question is a substantive theoretical one. It is not a question that can be settled by conceptual analysis alone.

In the moral case, the key question is this: What status must a moral standard have, in order for a moral proposition to be true? The standardbased schema says that a pure and basic moral proposition, such as the proposition that slavery is wrong, is true if and only if a corresponding standard — presumably the standard that prohibits slavery — has the morally relevant truth-grounding status. Slavery is morally wrong, but the indoor wearing of hats is not. The standard-based account is intended to explain the normativity of normative propositions.

It says that a proposition is normative only if it entails nontrivially the existence of a standard that has an appropriate status. For example, the proposition that lying is morally wrong entails that the standard, Do not lie, has some relevant status. Standards call for certain things to be done or to be chosen. According to the standardbased account, then, a basic normative proposition is essentially relevant to action or choice because it entails nontrivially the existence of a 29 In Copp a 25—26 , I propose a Millean account of wrongness according to which an action has the property of being wrong just in case it has the complex property of 1 being forbidden by a standard included in or entailed by the moral code with the relevant truth-grounding status and 2 a standard included in or entailed by that moral code calls for the agent of the action to feel regret for having done it, other things being equal.

In this book, to simplify, I ignore clause 2 of the account. This is what accounts for the normativity of these propositions. The standard-based account says that if slavery is wrong, it is prohibited by a morally authoritative standard. It also suggests that the property of being wrong is the property of at least being prohibited by a morally authoritative standard.

To fill out the standard-based account, then, we need to develop a theory of this status, the status of being morally authoritative. A society needs to reduce the harmfulness of conflict among its members and to give its members the security they need in order to cooperate successfully. And the currency of a moral code is, I believe, the most efficient way to achieve these ends.

Other things equal, a society with a social moral code would experience less conflict, less harmful conflict among its members, and more cooperation among them, and its members would be more successful at meeting their own needs and pursuing their values than would be the case if the society did not have a social moral code.

With a social moral code, a society does better than it otherwise could at meeting its need to have cooperative interaction and to avoid harmful conflict among its members. Furthermore, I believe, it is common sense that some moral codes would serve the basic needs of society better than others.

The better codes are the ones whose currency would better enable a society to meet its basic needs. Given differences in the circumstances of societies, moreover, the code that would best serve the needs of one society might be different from the code that would best serve the needs of another society. A society facing an epidemic might need the currency of a prohibition of certain kinds of behavior where, in the absence of the epidemic, it would have had no need of the prohibition.

Society-centered theory is a development of these ideas. The fact that the currency of some given moral code would better serve the basic needs of a society than would the currency of some other code means that the society has reason to prefer the first code. And I want to claim that the code that would best serve the basic needs of the society is the code that is morally authoritative.

It has the relevant truth-grounding status. Standards that are included in or implied by the code underwrite the truth of corresponding basic moral propositions. That is, according to the society-centered theory, a basic moral proposition is true only if a corresponding moral standard is included in or implied by the moral code the currency of which in the relevant society would enable the society better to serve its basic needs than would the currency of other sets of rules and better than would be the case if no set of rules had currency in the society.

What are the basic needs of a society? First, a society needs to ensure its physical integrity, to ensure that its population continues to exist. Second, it needs cooperative integrity, to ensure that there continues to be a system of cooperation among its members. This requires that it ensure internal social harmony.

Third, a society needs peaceful and cooperative relationships with neighboring societies. To meet these needs, a society must, among other things, ensure that at least the bulk of its members are able to meet their basic needs. In most circumstances, moreover, it can best meet its needs by ensuring that all members are able to meet their basic needs with rough equality.

See note 29, above, and see Copp a, 25— And a society may need to deter some individuals from antisocial behavior by threatening punishments through a legal system. But leaving aside issues of punishment and deterrence, and leaving aside extreme circumstances, a society best meets its needs by ensuring that its members are able to meet their needs with rough equality. For in the absence of a special reason connected to its needs, there is no reason from the standpoint of the society to favor one group over another.

And people are more likely than otherwise to contribute willingly and well to the overall flourishing of the society when they have been able to meet their needs. Hence, the moral implications of the theory are both contingent and somewhat speculative. However, I think it is likely that the theory yields a deontological moral code of a familiar kind. Yet societies can be in different circumstances, which means that the moral codes the currency of which best meets their needs are unlikely to be exactly the same. This account raises a number of questions and worries.

What is a society? Is the theory tenable given its apparent relativistic implications? I will return to these issues.

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In the chapters of this book and in other recent essays, I have appealed to the basic theory rather than the original theory. Both the basic theory and the original theory provide an account of the truth-grounding status of moral standards. The original theory 33 In the preceding two paragraphs, I follow Copp , — It claims roughly that a basic moral proposition is true only if a corresponding moral standard is included in or implied by the moral code that the relevant society would be rational to choose to serve in it as the societal moral code.

It defines the truth conditions of moral propositions directly in terms of the status that corresponding standards have when their serving in a society as the societal moral code would enable the society better to serve its needs than would the currency of other sets of standards. See Copp a, — and — I develop my account of rational choice, and explain the idea of a basic need, in Copp a, ch. I discuss the basic needs of societies at pp. He classifies the society-centered theory as constructivist It can accept the five doctrines of moral realism as well as the central doctrine of moral naturalism.

According to the basic theory, the truth of a moral proposition depends on which system of standards is such that its currency would best serve the needs of the relevant society, which is an endorsement-independent matter. The basic society-centered theory is simpler than the original theory.

It does not presuppose a theory of practical rationality. And it is not constructivist. The basic theory entails the original theory if we assume an appropriate view about rational choice as well as the view that societies are capable in principle of choice. But since these views are controversial, it is preferable to dispense with them and focus attention on the basic theory.

Divine command views are also constructivist Quinn Some philosophers take moral realism to exclude constructivism, but I think their disagreement with me is terminological. Shafer-Landau adopts a usage of the latter kind , 15, 17— Copp a, — Copp In ibid. For a constructivist theory that is not a kind of practical theory, see the response-dependence view defended in Brower Gauthier with Korsgaard This was pointed out by Richmond Campbell The basic theory has the further advantage of directness.

The availability of the basic theory shows, however, that there is no need to rest society-centered theory on a theory of rational choice. The basic theory aims to explain the normativity of morality without a detour through the theory of rational choice. The example shows that societies are not necessarily ethnically or culturally homogeneous or united and that the members of a society might not identify with the group or with its history. Hence the entities I call societies must be distinguished both from states and from nations.

Societies are relatively comprehensive of the various functions and roles required for a group to be self-sufficient, and they are relatively self-sufficient. They are multi-generational both in the sense that their membership includes members of several generations and in the sense that their existence extends through several generations in time. They are territorial, and their membership includes virtually everyone residing 45 Jon Tresan pointed out that there may be exotic cases that distinguish them extensionally. But I now think that this was a mistake. See Copp , But societies have permeable borders and their borders might not be precisely defined in the way the borders of states are defined.

Membership is inherited at birth, although a person can leave one society and join another as a result of moving permanently from the territory of one society into that of another society. The people that the members of a society interact with, in securing the material necessities of their lives as well as in pursuing cultural priorities, are, by and large, also members of the society. Such interactions are governed by norms that are widely shared in the society. A society provides its members with a framework for their lives, for most of their friendships and important relationships are with other members of the society.

Most of the characteristics I have mentioned are matters of degree, and an entity might exhibit one of them to a rather large degree but another to a rather lesser degree. This needs more attention than I can pay to it here. Yet the following formula can serve as a rough definition. This fact requires an amendment to the underlying society-centered theory, although I ignore the amendment here.

To answer this question, we need to discuss the relativistic nature of the society-centered theory. Similarly, virtuousness is roughly a relation that 50 Copp a, , and, for an extended discussion, ch. In the preceding three paragraphs I draw on Copp , — Other moral properties are similarly relational.

Of course this is not obvious. It is not obvious because, in most circumstances, context determines which society is relevant so that we do not need to refer overtly to the society. Because of this, a person who is competent in the ordinary way with moral concepts might not realize that a societal parameter needs somehow to be supplied or assumed in order for a remark to the effect that, say, capital punishment is wrong, successfully to express a proposition.

There are many other cases in which people of ordinary conceptual competence might not realize that a certain predicate expression actually expresses a complex relation with a hidden parameter. For a simple example, consider the remark that Warshawski is large. She is large for a house cat, but small for a feline. Largeness is actually a relation between objects and comparison classes, where the comparison class in a given case is typically determined by the context rather than being explicitly mentioned.

They might think that temperature is a rather simple property. Given these examples, we should not be surprised to find that moral predicates express properties that are relational in ways we had not anticipated. I say, then, that moral properties are relational and that one relatum is a relevant society. The society that is relevant in a given case is typically determined by the context. The default is, I think, that the society 52 See Harman , 3. There can be different views about the exact nature of the relation at issue depending on exactly how the semantics of the definition is understood.

This point supports my claim that one can be competent with Celsius temperatures without knowing exactly what properties or relations are at issue. If he says this in a news conference in New York, where the intended audience is newspaper readers in the United States, then he has expressed the proposition that capital punishment is permissible in American society. But if he says the same thing in Paris at a news conference with Chirac, and if Chirac says in the same context that capital punishment is not permissible, then the two men have disagreed about the permissibility of capital punishment.

The smallest society that embraces both men is perhaps the very large and loosely organized society that encompasses Europe and former European colonies, so they might best be construed as disagreeing about the permissibility of capital punishment in that larger society. If a philosopher says that capital punishment is impermissible, the relevant society is likely to be the notional society of all rational persons, since it is likely that the philosopher views morality as being of universal scope, prescribing duties incumbent on all rational persons.

In some contexts, the default does not obtain. For example, if Bush says at the Paris news conference that capital punishment is permissible in America, his remark can be taken at face value as relativizing the claimed permissibility to American society. In other cases, however, the group of people at issue might not be contained within any society. I say that the duties of people in a group that is not part of any society are determined by the content of the moral code the currency of which in the group would best contribute to its acquiring the properties of a society — including its coming to be characterized by a system of cooperation — and then to serving its basic needs.

Of course, whether we 54 Copp a, I made a somewhat different suggestion in Copp a, — This raises issues in moral epistemology, which I discuss in chapters 2 and 3. The relativism in the society-centered view is actually quite weak. There are various details that mitigate the variability of morality from society to society. For example, there is, I believe, a global society, and in many contexts the global society is the relevant society. Moreover, since societies have the same needs, there is reason to expect that the moral code that is authoritative relative to one society will be similar to the moral code that is authoritative relative to another society.

If capital punishment is wrong relative to French society but permissible relative to American society, then the societies must be in somewhat different circumstances. VI Objections A variety of objections could be raised to the society-centered theory, and I respond to many of them in this book. As I mentioned before, the basic idea of the theory might seem to be at odds both with moral realism and with the normativity of moral judgment.

I hope I have already said enough to make it clear why I think these worries are ill-founded. In chapter 5, I respond in more detail to the worry about realism, and I respond to the worry about normativity in chapters 8 through One might worry that the society-centered view conflicts with our moral intuitions.

I do not say very much about this issue in this book. One might think, for example, that slavery is wrong under all circumstances, and in particular that slavery would have been wrong even if our society had been in circumstances where its needs would have been served better by the currency of a moral code that permitted slavery.

Of course this objection could be interpreted simply as a denial of the society-centered theory rather than as the beginning of an argument against the theory. But it can also be interpreted as expressing a moral intuition that is in apparent 57 Anton Leist pressed the worry and I have responded to it Copp a, —, —; , —; , — In chapter 4, I argue that the society-centered theory can in fact account for the intuition that slavery is wrong period.

I think that the theory does much better at accounting for our moral intuitions than one might initially believe. Part One contains four chapters on the nature of moral naturalism and on metaphysical and epistemological issues.

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Part Two contains three chapters on semantic challenges that face moral naturalism. Part Three contains three chapters on the normativity of moral judgment and on the relation between morality and rationality. On this characterization, a naturalist should hold that all substantive moral knowledge is empirical. But certain common sense observations can appear to undermine the idea that our moral knowledge is empirical. For instance, sound moral belief seems to be a result of thinking sensitively about an issue rather than a result of empirical theorizing.

I argue that the observations that fuel the challenges are actually compatible with moral naturalism. I also address the worry that the society-centered view would seem to imply that moral knowledge is a kind of sociological knowledge, which is not true to our ways of coming to decisions about moral questions. We might have the intuition, for instance, that slavery is wrong period.

One might think that this idea cannot be accommodated by moral naturalism. In this chapter, I argue on the contrary that only a naturalistic theory that provides a substantive and rich account of the nature of moral properties can explain what grounds the moral necessities. The three chapters in Part Two deal with central issues in the defense of moral naturalism against noncognitivism. I point out that moral predicates may be used both to ascribe properties and to express attitudes. This proposal can help to explain some intuitions that lead people to believe that judgment internalism is true.

It can also explain the semantic difference between a moral predicate and the naturalistic predicate, if there is one, that could be used to ascribe the very property that is also ascribed by that moral predicate. Any version of moral naturalism must explain how moral predicates come to refer to natural properties. To explain this, a naturalist needs to adopt a general semantic theory about the relation between predicates and properties and then apply the theory to moral predicates. Terence Horgan and Mark Timmons have proposed an argument — the Moral Twin Earth argument — that is intended to show that this strategy cannot work.

My reply to this argument is in chapter 6. Horgan and Timmons have responded that the only way to avoid their objection is to leave it indeterminate which natural property is ascribed by a given moral predicate. Part Three of the book contains three chapters that deal in one way or another with the normativity of moral judgment. It is sometimes thought, for example, that an adequate account of the normativity of morality must show that it gives rise to reasons that any rational person would take into account in deliberation, if he or she were aware of them, just in virtue of being rational.

I argue that this is a mistake. Morality is not a supreme normative standpoint that directs and orders the realm of reasons. Indeed, there is no such standpoint. I argue that moral reasons do not override reasons of self-interest, but neither do reasons of self-interest override moral reasons. There simply are different kinds of reasons. This position gives rise to awkward questions about the relations among reasons of the different kinds.

Moreover, since we need to make decisions, we want to know what we have most reason to do. In addition to these practical issues, there are also metatheoretical issues regarding our thought and discourse about nonmoral reasons that are analogous to the metaethical issues about moral reasons that the society-centered theory is designed to answer.

Metaethics, An Introduction by Andrew Fisher | | Booktopia

Moral reasons are not necessarily self-grounded, but they are self-grounded in morally good people, for good people have moral values and rationally guide their lives in accord with their values. I argue, moreover, that given the nature of practical deliberation, if a rational agent with relevant knowledge and understanding reaches a decision about what to do as a result of deliberation, then, other things being equal, his or her decision is to act in accord with his or her values.

My goal in this book is to answer many of the standard objections to moral naturalism, including especially the objection that moral naturalism cannot explain the normativity of moral thought and discourse. In the course of defending moral naturalism, I also aim to show that the society-centered theory is a plausible version of moral naturalism. Yet at this point in the ongoing argument, I believe that moral naturalism remains in a strong position.

Boyd, Richard. Geoffrey Sayre-McCord, — Ithaca, N. Brink, David O. Moral Realism and the Foundations of Ethics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Brower, Bruce. Campbell, Richmond. Copp, David. Morality, Normativity, and Society. New York: Oxford University Press. Kai Nielsen and Jocyelyne Couture.

Canadian Journal of Philosophy, supp. New Readings in Moral Epistemology, ed. Walter Sinnott-Armstrong and Mark Timmons, — The Oxford Handbook of Ethical Theory. Dancy, Jonathan. Darwall, Stephen. Impartial Reason.

A principled and cosmopolitan neuroethics: considerations for international relevance

Frege, Gottlob. Collected Papers on Mathematics, Logic, and Philosophy, ed. Brian McGuinness, trans. Black, V. Dudman, P. Geach, H. Kaal, E. Kluge, B. McGuinness, and R. Oxford: Basil Blackwell. Morals by Agreement. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Hare, R. The Language of Morals. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Harman, Gilbert. Horgan, Terence, and Mark Timmons. Korsgaard, Christine. The Sources of Normativity. Leist, Anton. Mackie, J. Ethics: Inventing Right and Wrong. Harmondsworth, England: Penguin.

Miller, Alexander. An Introduction to Contemporary Metaethics. Cambridge: Polity Press. Moore, G. Principia Ethica. Thomas Baldwin. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, Quinn, Philip L. Railton, Peter. Rawls, John. A Theory of Justice. Cambridge, Mass. Scanlon, T. Lawrence: Department of Philosophy, University of Kansas. What We Owe to Each Other. Shafer-Landau, Russ. Moral Realism: A Defense. Smith, Michael. Sturgeon, Nicholas L. David Copp and David Zimmerman, 49— Totowa, N. My goal in this chapter is to explain what ethical naturalism is, to locate the pivotal issue between naturalists and nonnaturalists, and to motivate taking naturalism seriously.

It is no part of my goal to establish the truth of naturalism. There are various familiar objections to it, including, most importantly, the objection that naturalism cannot explain the normativity of moral judgment. In this chapter, my goal is simply to motivate naturalism sufficiently that the attempt to deal with the objections will seem worthwhile. The chief problem, of course, is to explain what it might mean to claim that moral properties are natural properties.

I think that once this is properly explained, naturalism will seem enormously attractive. I am grateful to all of them for their help and patience. I presented drafts of the chapter to the meetings of the North American Society for Social Philosophy; to the departments of philosophy at Washington University in St. I am grateful to members of all of these audiences for helpful discussion. It is important to understand from the outset the relation between ethical naturalism and the unrestricted form of naturalism according to which the natural world is all that there is.

There are two points. First, an ethical naturalist can consistently reject an unrestricted naturalism. Her thought is specifically about morality. Second, unrestricted naturalism does not commit one to ethical naturalism. Ethical naturalism, as I understand it, involves the thesis that there are moral properties, and this thesis is not entailed by unrestricted naturalism. Ethical naturalism is a kind of moral realism, but an unrestricted naturalist could accept an error theory in ethics, or a version of expressivism.

Nevertheless, I will not attempt here to defend either moral realism or my characterization of it. Instead, I will simply take moral realism as given and proceed to investigate the naturalistic form of realism. What does the naturalist mean by a natural property? The 2 Mackie , ch. The naturalistic fallacy is introduced in section 10, at p. Hence, the naturalist should say that any knowledge we have of synthetic moral truths must be empirical. And, in line with this, she might propose that moral properties are empirical in that any knowledge we have of synthetic propositions about their instantiation must be empirical.

Moore is of course a nonnaturalist on this proposal. Among the things we can know in this way, Moore suggests, is that friendship is good,8 which is surely a synthetic proposition. Moore therefore appears to think that our fundamental moral knowledge is nonempirical knowledge of synthetic moral truths. On the proposal we are considering, moreover, he views goodness as a nonnatural property since he thinks that we can have nonempirical knowledge of the synthetic truth that goodness is instantiated in friendships. On the current proposal, then, Moore qualifies as a nonnaturalist, which, of course, is the result we wanted to find.

I will return to this proposal after considering some contemporary conceptions of the natural. Moore , sec. Since different conceptions may be appropriate in different areas, I see no reason to tie our understanding of ethical naturalism to the best understanding of the natural in any other area. It will nevertheless be useful to consider proposals that are familiar from the literature, even if only briefly.

There seem to be four basic approaches: A reductionist proposals, B ostensive definitions, C metaphysical definitions, and D epistemic definitions. A Reductionist and Relational Approaches. A reductionist or relational strategy specifies a base class of properties that are supposed to be uncontroversially natural and then requires, of any other property that is to qualify as natural, that it be suitably related to properties in the base class.

These proposals are problematic. For one thing, even nonnaturalists must agree that moral properties supervene on nonmoral natural properties. Moore agrees, for example. The key problem, however, is that approaches of these kinds do not tell us what it is about a natural property that makes it natural. They depend on the prior selection of a base class of natural properties, and they are therefore parasitic on a proposal of some other kind for an account of what distinguishes natural from nonnatural properties. Of course, if we had such an account, we could apply it directly to the moral properties to test 9 This discussion follows King , 55— Frank Jackson argues that the supervenience of moral properties on natural properties entails that moral properties are natural , — B Ostensive Definitions.

On approaches of this kind, however, it appears that we could simply take the natural world to be the world studied by the sciences, and there would be no need for the ostensive part of the proposal. C Metaphysical Characterizations of the Natural. Since the category of natural properties is meant to be metaphysical, it would be ideal if we could define the natural in metaphysical terms. The literature offers at least four suggestions. First, it cannot be assumed that the natural order is causal. It is sometimes said that there is no causation 12 13 14 15 16 Jackson , 7. Hare , , 82; Goldman , Revision history.

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David Manley - manuscript. Defining Normativity. Oxford University Press. Sharon Street - - Philosophical Issues 18 1 Mark Hanin - - Res Publica 18 4 Xunzi and Naturalistic Ethics. Morality: Reasoning on Different Approaches. Vasil Gluchman ed. Natural Goodness, Normativity, and Naturalism. Jay Odenbaugh - - Synthese 4 Morality, Normativity, and Society. David Copp - - Oxford University Press. John Deigh - - Cambridge University Press. Facts, Values and Moral Realism.

Metaphysical Naturalism and Some Moral Realisms. Matthew Carey Jordan - - Philo 14 1 Added to PP index Total views 51, of 2,, Recent downloads 6 months 13 73, of 2,, How can I increase my downloads? Sign in to use this feature. Applied ethics.

Morality in a Natural World: Selected Essays in Metaethics (Cambridge Studies in Philosophy) Morality in a Natural World: Selected Essays in Metaethics (Cambridge Studies in Philosophy)
Morality in a Natural World: Selected Essays in Metaethics (Cambridge Studies in Philosophy) Morality in a Natural World: Selected Essays in Metaethics (Cambridge Studies in Philosophy)
Morality in a Natural World: Selected Essays in Metaethics (Cambridge Studies in Philosophy) Morality in a Natural World: Selected Essays in Metaethics (Cambridge Studies in Philosophy)
Morality in a Natural World: Selected Essays in Metaethics (Cambridge Studies in Philosophy) Morality in a Natural World: Selected Essays in Metaethics (Cambridge Studies in Philosophy)
Morality in a Natural World: Selected Essays in Metaethics (Cambridge Studies in Philosophy) Morality in a Natural World: Selected Essays in Metaethics (Cambridge Studies in Philosophy)
Morality in a Natural World: Selected Essays in Metaethics (Cambridge Studies in Philosophy) Morality in a Natural World: Selected Essays in Metaethics (Cambridge Studies in Philosophy)
Morality in a Natural World: Selected Essays in Metaethics (Cambridge Studies in Philosophy) Morality in a Natural World: Selected Essays in Metaethics (Cambridge Studies in Philosophy)

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