The naturalisticfallacy is a source of much confusion. In what follows I will explain what G. E. Moore meant by the naturalisticfallacy, give modern day examples of it then mention some of the different types of views it has spawned. Finally, I will consider a few criticisms of it.
The naturalisticfallacy is mentionedfrequently by evolutionary psychologists as anerroneous way of thinking about the ethicalimplications of evolved behaviors. However,evolutionary psychologists are themselvesconfused about the naturalisticfallacy and useit inappropriately to forestall legitimateethical discussion. We briefly review what thenaturalistic fallacy is and why it is misusedby evolutionary psychologists. Then we attemptto show how the ethical implications of evolvedbehaviors can be discussed constructivelywithout impeding evolutionary psychologicalresearch. A key is to show how ethicalbehaviors, in addition to unethical (...) behaviors,can evolve by natural selection. (shrink)
The naturalisticfallacy is mentioned frequently by evolutionary psychologists as an erroneous way of thinking about the ethical implications of evolved behaviors. However, evolutionary psychologists are themselves confused about the naturalisticfallacy and use it inappropriately to forestall legitimate ethical discussion. We briefly review what the naturalisticfallacy is and why it is misused by evolutionary psychologists. Then we attempt to show how the ethical implications of evolved behaviors can be discussed constructively without impeding (...) evolutionary psychological research. A key is to show how ethical behaviors, in addition to unethical behaviors, can evolve by natural selection. (shrink)
ChapterI THE NATURALISTICFALLACY AZ THE NATURE OF THE FALLACY The criticism which has since been labelled the naturalisticfallacy was first described by the eighteenth-century empircist David Hume, in a small but celebrated ...
More than a century ago, G. E. Moore famously offered an extended inference to reject what are in effect two substantially different types of ethical naturalism. Although some naturalistic doctrines targeted by that inference make semantic claims that, if true, would entail certain metaphysical claims, it is also possible that those semantic doctrines could be false and the metaphysical ones true at the same time. For if semantic naturalism is true, then moral terms and sentences are reducible, by an (...) analysis of what they mean, into some purely descriptive terms and sentences. But, if metaphysical naturalism is true, then the moral properties and propositions expressed by moral terms and sentences are reducible to purely natural properties and propositions. By conflating claims about meaning with claims about reference, Moore‟s original inference proved vulnerable to a number of well known objections. But we believe there is a revised Moorean inference that can succeed, and we offer that argument here. Its scope is restricted to semantic reductivist forms of ethical naturalism: those that rest on theses claiming the reducibility of expressions in the moral vocabulary to expressions in a non-moral one. A not uncommon philosophical view in Moore‟s day, such theses remain live options in metaethics (as we‟ll presently show). Although our inference is run for some putative equivalences between moral and purely descriptive terms, it could easily be adapted against ethical naturalist theses 1 involving moral concepts and thoughts as well as sentences. Like Moore, we take the successful inference to consist in an open question argument („OQA’) followed by the naturalistic-fallacy charge („NFC‟). But, unlike Moore, we identify semantic naturalism as the only naturalistic doctrine vulnerable to the inference, and we offer adequate support for the inference‟s premises. Naturalism in ethics is thus undermined, though not refuted in all its forms: semantical naturalism comes out false, but metaphysical naturalism might still be true.. (shrink)
This paper addresses the relationship between theoretical and applied ethics. It directs philosophical attention toward the concept of ideology, conceived as a bridge between high-level principles and decision-making practice. How are we to understand this bridge and how can we avoid the naturalisticfallacy while taking ideology seriously?It is then suggested that the challenge posed by ideology in the arena of organizational ethics is in many ways similar to the challenge posed by developmentalist accounts of moral stages in (...) the arena of individual ethics, namely, how to account for the normative force of frameworks that are theoretically derivative yet practically essential. (shrink)
In promoting spontaneous orders – orders that evolve in a process of cultural evolution – as “efficient,” “beneficial,” and “advantageous,” Friedrich A. Hayek (1899-1992) has often been attributed the belief that there is something desirable about them. For this reason, he has been accused of committing the naturalisticfallacy, that is, of trying to derive an “ought” from an “is.” It appears that Hayek was..
Out of a concern to respect the naturalisticfallacy, Ruse (1986) argues for the possibility of causal, but not justificatory, explanations of morality in terms of evolutionary processes. In a discussion of Ruse's work, Rottschaefer and Martinsen (1990) claim that he erroneously limits the explanatory scope of evolutionary concepts, because he fails to see that one can have objective moral properties without committing either of two forms of the naturalisticfallacy, if one holds that moral properties (...) supervene on non-moral properties. In this short paper I argue that Rottschaefer and Martinsen's solution fails. If one takes moral properties to supervene on non-moral properties, then either one ends up committing one of the two forms of the naturalisticfallacy or else one is left postulating unbelievable brute metaphysical facts. (shrink)
In a recent paper in this journal (Rottschaefer and Martinsen 1990) we have proposed a view of Darwinian evolutionary metaethics that we believe improves upon Michael Ruse's (e.g., Ruse 1986) proposals by claiming that there are evolutionary based objective moral values and that a Darwinian naturalistic account of the moral good in terms of human fitness can be given that avoids the naturalisticfallacy in both its definitional and derivational forms while providing genuine, even if limited, justifications (...) for substantive ethical claims. Jonathan Barrett (this issue) has objected to our proposal contending that we cannot hold for the reality of supervenient moral properties without either falling foul of the naturalisticfallacy or suffering the consequences of postulating inexplicable moral properties. In reply, we show that Barrett's explicit arguments that we commit either the definitional or derivational form of the naturalisticfallacy fail and that his naturalistic intuitions that supervenience explanations of moral properties by nonmoral properties force us into what we call the explanatory form of the naturalisticfallacy also fail. Positively, his objections help us to clarify the nature of the naturalisticfallacy within an evolutionary based naturalistic ethics and to point out the proper role of both supervenience explanations and moral explanations in such an ethics. (shrink)
More than a century ago, G. E. Moore famously offered his own version of nonnaturalism in opposition to what are, in effect, analytic versions of reductive naturalism in ethics. Although Moore himself did not clearly distinguish the analysis of predicates from that of properties, he plainly denied that the evaluative predicate, good , could be analyzed in terms of any purely descriptive predicate, and took this to show that the property of goodness could not be identical to any natural property (...) or properties. In support of this, he offered an extended inference, which begins with the so−called open question argument (hereafter, OQA ') and concludes that any such attempted analysis would commit a naturalisticfallacy.' There is now consensus that this extended inference faces a number of problems. Not only does it conflate properties and predicates, it also rests on a notion of philosophical analysis that is at best paradoxical. Moreover, it misconstrues ethical naturalism, taking it to consist in a single reductivist program. Here we propose a Moore−inspired, yet more modest, extended inference that we think can at once avoid these shortcomings and also show that evaluative predicates are not analyzable into purely descriptive predicates. Given our inference, any attempt at such an analysis would commit the naturalisticfallacy, for it would sanction a semantic equivalence between predicates that is at least debatable − for example, between good' and pleasure−maximizing.' The objection is leveled, not against metaphysical varieties of reductive naturalism, but only against semantic versions of this position. (shrink)
One of the most distinguishing features of environmental ethics has been the effort to develop a nonanthropocentric intrinsic value theory, that is, a definition of the good which is not dependent upon some quality particular to humanity, a definition of the good whereby properties found in the terrestrial, nonhuman world are constitutive of that definition. In this paper, I argue that major nonanthropocentric theories suffer from arbitrariness. I argue through the use of representative thinkers that much nonathropocentric theory has committed (...) the naturalisticfallacy because it has deployed various forms of empirical naturalism, and that to meet this challenge nonanthropocentrism must employ a form of metaphysically based nonanthropocentrism. I do not argue that the naturalisticfallacy is valid. Rather, I show that a sample of major thinkers, representative of a logically exhaustive set of possible evasions of the naturalisticfallacy, all fail to evade the fallacy. Further, I show that the failure of this set of possible evasionsleaves but one evasion possible, namely, ethical theory grounded in metaphysics. Finally, I recommend “process” metaphysics as the most promising metaphysical ground for environmental ethics, assuming the validity of the naturalisticfallacy. (shrink)
In the first part of this paper, I try to clear the ground from frequent misconceptions about the relationship between fact and value by examining some uses of the adjective “natural” in ethical controversies. Such uses bear evidence to our “natural” tendency to regard nature (considered in a descriptive sense, as the complex of physical and biological regularities) as the source of ethical norms. I then try to account for the origin of this tendency by offering three related explanations, the (...) most important of which regards it as the outcome of an adaptation: if any behaviour that favours our equilibrium with the environment is potentially adaptive, nothing can be more effective for this goal than developing an attitude toward the natural world that regards it as a dispenser of sacred norms that must be invariably respected. By referring to the Aristotelian notion of human flourishing illustrated in the first part of the paper, in the second I discuss some ethical problems raised by mini-chips implantable under in our bodies. I conclude by defending the potential beneficial effects of such new technological instruments. (shrink)
The impact of science on ethics forms since long the subject of intense debate. Although there is a growing consensus that science can describe morality and explain its evolutionary origins, there is less consensus about the ability of science to provide input to the normative domain of ethics. Whereas defenders of a scientific normative ethics appeal to naturalism, its critics either see the naturalisticfallacy committed or argue that the relevance of science to normative ethics remains undemonstrated. In (...) this paper, we argue that current scientific normative ethicists commit no fallacy, that criticisms of scientific ethics contradict each other, and that scientific insights are relevant to normative inquiries by informing ethics about the options open to the ethical debate. Moreover, when conceiving normative ethics as being a nonfoundational ethics, science can be used to evaluate every possible norm. This stands in contrast to foundational ethics in which some norms remain beyond scientific inquiry. Finally, we state that a difference in conception of normative ethics underlies the disagreement between proponents and opponents of a scientific ethics. Our argument is based on and preceded by a reconsideration of the notions naturalisticfallacy and foundational ethics. This argument differs from previous work in scientific ethics: whereas before the philosophical project of naturalizing the normative has been stressed, here we focus on concrete consequences of biological findings for normative decisions or on the day-to-day normative relevance of these scientific insights. (shrink)
In this article I argue that a methodological challenge to an integrated history and philosophy of science approach put forth by Ronald Giere almost forty years ago can be met by what I call the Kuhnian mode of History and Philosophy of Science (HPS). Although in the Kuhnian mode of HPS norms about science are motivated by historical facts about scientific practice, the justifiers of the constructed norms are not historical facts. The Kuhnian mode of HPS therefore evades the (...) class='Hi'>naturalisticfallacy which Giere’s challenge is a version of. Against the backdrop of a discussion of Laudan’s normative naturalism I argue that the Kuhnian mode of HPS is a superior form of naturalism: it establishes contact to the practice of science without making itself dependent on its contingencies. (shrink)
From Charles Darwin to Edward Wilson, evolutionary biologists have attempted to construct systems of evolutionary ethics. These attempts have been roundly criticized, most often for having committed the naturalisticfallacy. In this essay, I review the history of previous efforts at formulating an evolutionary ethics, focusing on the proposals of Darwin and Wilson. I then advance and defend a proposal of my own. In the last part of the essay, I try to demonstrate that my revised version of (...) evolutionary ethics: (1) does not commit the naturalisticfallacy as it is usually understood; (2) does, admittedly, derive values from facts; but (3) does not commit any fallacy in doing so. (shrink)
Although a focus on individual differences can help resolve issues concerning performance errors and computational complexity, the understanding/acceptance axiom is inadequate for establishing which decision norms are most appropriate. The contribution of experience to automatic and controlled processes suggests difficulties in attributing interactional intelligence to goals of evolutionary rationality and analytic intelligence to goals of instrumental rationality.
More than a century ago, G. E. Moore famously attempted to refute all versions of moral naturalism by offering the open question argument (OQA) followed by the “naturalisticfallacy” charge (NF).1 Although there is consensus that this extended inference fails to undermine all varieties of moral naturalism, OQA is often vindicated as an argument against analytical moral naturalism. By contrast, NF usually finds no takers at all. ln this paper we argue that analytical naturalism of the sort recently (...) proposed by Frank Jackson and Michael Smith does after all rest on a mistake — though perhaps not the NF. Analytical moral naturalism is roughly the doctrine that some moral predicates and sentences are a priori equivalent to predicates and sentences framed in non-moral terms (Jackson 2003: 558). Given moral naturalism, it is at least possible that there are some such a priori or conceptual equivalences. But a properly construed OQA challenges this reductive strategy by showing that it is open to doubt on a priori grounds. We further contend that, in the dialectical context created by our OQA, a "digging in the heeis" defense of the strategy would beg the question. ll.. (shrink)
Here, in textbook style, is a concise biological account of the evolution of morality. It addresses morality on three levels: moral outcomes (behavioral genetics), moral motivation or intent (psychology and neurology), and moral systems (sociality). The rationale for teaching this material is addressed in Allchin (2009). Classroom resources (including accompanying images and video links) and a discussion of teaching strategies are provided online at: http://EvolutionOfMorality.net.
The development of modern evolutionary ethics began shortly after the publication of Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species by Natural Selection. Early discussions were plagued by several problems. First, evolutionary ethical explanations were dependent on group-selection accounts of social behavior (especially the explanation of altruism). Second, they seem to violate the philosophical principle that “ought” statements cannot be derived from “is” statements alone (values cannot be derivedfrom facts alone). Third, evolutionary ethics appeared to be biologically deterministic, deemed incompatible with (...) the free will required for ethics to be possible. Fourth, social policies based on evolutionary theory (for example, eugenics in the early part of this century) seemed patently unethical. Sociobiology (which coalesced as a field of study with Edward O. Wilson's Sociobiology: The New Synthesis, 1975) addressed several of these problems and provided a rich framework and a new impetus for evolutionary ethics. The lingering problems were the philosophical is-ought barrier and biological determinism. After tracing the early and more recent development of evolutionary ethics, I argue that the remaining problems can be surmounted and an incipient evolutionary ethics can be defended. Thoroughgoing evolutionaryethics must await theoretical developments in neurobiology and cognitive science. (shrink)
The paper is devoted to the interpretation of one of the most important passages in modern Anglophon philosophy: III.1.3 of Treatise of Human Nature by David Hume. The author considers the problem of its meaning at an angle of the standard interpretation, which can be summed up in a dictum: ‘no ought from is’ (so called “Hume’s Guillotine”). The author outlines four possible approaches to this putative meaning of the Treatise passage and weighs arguments for them. The investigation, based mainly (...) on the strategies by Arthur Prior, Charles Pigden and John Searle, allows to defend two approaches regarding Hume’s putative proposal of is/ought gap: /1/ the idea of logical autonomy of moral discourse, making strong rationality of deduction from is to (non-trivial) ought invalid, together with /2/ the possibility of weak rational (justified) inference from is to ought. However, the comparison of these two accounts with the guts of Humean philosophy as such (critical skepticism, fallibilism, ethical noncognitivism) makes the author prone to give a priority to the latter. (shrink)
Nearly all current attempts at environmental impact analysis and technology assessment fall victim to an ethical and methodological assumption that Keniston termed “the fallacy of unfinished business.” Related to one version of the naturalisticfallacy, this assumption is that technological and environmental problems have only technical, but not social, ethical, or political solutions. After using several impactanalyses to illustrate the policy consequences of the fallacy of unfinished business, I suggest how it might be overcome. Next I (...) present three standard arguments, repeatedly used in technology and environmental impact assessments, by those who subscribe to this “fallacy.” I briefty examine the logical, consequentialist, and historical reasons for rejecting all three arguments in favor of this assumption. Ifmy suggestions are correct, then environmental impact analysis is not only a matter of discovering how to finish our technological business, but also a question of learning how to recognize the ethical and epistemological dimensions of our assessment tasks. (shrink)
In this paper, I argue that informational semantics, the most well-known and worked-out naturalistic account of intentional content, conflicts with a fundamental psychological principle about the conditions of belief-formation. Since this principle is an important premise in the argument for informational semantics, the upshot is that the view is self-contradictory??indeed, it turns out to be guilty of a sophisticated version of the fallacy famously committed by Euthyphro in the eponymous Platonic dialogue. Criticisms of naturalistic accounts of content (...) typically proceed piecemeal by narrowly constructed counterexamples, but I argue that the current result is more robust. It affects a broad family of accounts, and provokes a wider doubt about the possibility of successful execution of the naturalistic project. (shrink)
More than a century ago, G. E. Moore famously attempted to refute ethical naturalism by offering the so-called open question argument (OQA), also charging that all varieties of ethical naturalism commit the naturalisticfallacy. Although there is consensus that OQA and the naturalistic-fallacy charge both fail, OQA is sometimes vindicated, but only as an argument against naturalistic semantic analyses. The naturalistic-fallacy charge, by contrast, usually finds no takers at all. This paper provides new (...) grounds for an OQA thus restricted. But it aims chiefly at vindicating a version of the naturalisticfallacy, „the semantic-naturalist fallacy‟ (SNF), that we think defensible. We first argue that the openness of the question OQA raises against such analyses hinges on self-ascriptive, comparative judgments of content, which may be considered a priori warranted. We then provide independent reasons for the claim that the sort of mistake committed by naturalistic analyses in fact amounts to a pragmatic fallacy of a kind familiar in petitio principii and other forms of viciously circular inference. Of interest here are naturalistic analyses of ethical terms or concepts, not of properties. Our OQA (OQA*) raises an objection to the former. For no such semantic analyses can get off the ground unless moral terms are content-equivalent to purely descriptive terms, which amounts to saying that they must instantiate the same semantic types. Suppose „good‟ is the analysandum and „pleasure maximizing‟ the analysans (whichever purely descriptive term or terms would turn out to be the correct descriptive analysis of the target analysandum) of a certain semantic analysis. The claim that such terms are content-equivalent appears to be open to doubt on a priori grounds. After 1 all, whether one‟s own tokens of „good‟ and „pleasure maximizing‟ have/don‟t have the same content is a first-person, comparative judgment of content. Evaluating the proposed analysis requires, then, a self-ascriptive, comparative judgment of content.1 Judgments of this sort are thought to have a special epistemic status, since they seem grounded in neither evidence nor inference.. (shrink)
The present paper analyses the correctness of an argument aiming to show that Aristotelian ontology justifies a better interpretation of the world than naturalistic ontology. The problems connected with this argument can be reduced to three: (1) the assumption of a scientific appoach to the world does not imply the exclusion of subjectivity or intentionality; (2) the assumption of an ontology of substances does not imlpy the exclusion of ontological models deriving from the scientific approach to the world; (3) (...) the assumption of an ontology of substances is linked to the problem of the relation between the objective and the subjective world, involving the negation of causal closure of the objective world. An analysis of these problems will be presented below, together with a hypothesis of solution to the problem of illusoriness of the subjective dimension, in order to justify the confutation of an extreme naturalistic conception such as eliminativism. (shrink)
Philosophers often call emotions appropriate or inappropriate. What is meant by such talk? In one sense, explicated in this paper, to call an emotion appropriate is to say that the emotion is fitting: it accurately presents its object as having certain evaluative features. For instance, envy might be thought appropriate when one's rival has something good which one lacks. But someone might grant that a circumstance has these features, yet deny that envy is appropriate, on the grounds that it is (...) wrong to be envious. These two senses of `appropriate' have much less in common than philosophers have supposed. Indeed, the distinction between propriety and correctness is crucial to understanding the distinctive role of the emotions in ethics. We argue here that an emotion can be fitting despite being wrong to feel, and that various philosophical arguments are guilty of a systematic error which we term the moralistic fallacy. (shrink)
Eric T. Olson has argued that those who hold that two material objects can exactly coincide at a moment of time, with one of these objects constituting the other, face an insuperable difficulty in accounting for the alleged differences between the objects, such as their being of different kinds and possessing different persistence-conditions. The differences, he suggests, are inexplicable, given that the objects in question are composed of the same particles related in precisely the same way. In response, I show (...) that the differences are not at all inexplicable once it is recognized that the conditions for a persisting object to be composed by certain particles at a moment of time must involve facts concerning other moments of time, and that the relevant facts are different for persisting objects of different kinds. Philosophers who neglect this sort of constraint on composition principles may be said to be victims of the 'cinematographic fallacy'. (shrink)
Our article identifies and describes the metaphoric fallacy to a deductive inference (MFDI) that is an example of incorrect reasoning along the lines of the false analogy fallacy. The MFDI proceeds from informal semantical (metaphorical) claims to a supposedly formally deductive and necessary inference. We charge that such an inference is invalid. We provide three examples of the MFDI to demonstrate the structure of this invalid form of reasoning. Our goal is to contribute to the set of known (...) informal fallacies. (shrink)
In 1990 Robert Lickliter and Thomas Berry identified the phylogeny fallacy, an empirically untenable dichotomy between proximate and evolutionary causation, which locates proximate causes in the decoding of ‘genetic programs’, and evolutionary causes in the historical events that shaped these programs. More recently, Lickliter and Hunter Honeycutt (Psychol Bull 129:819–835, 2003a) argued that Evolutionary Psychologists commit this fallacy, and they proposed an alternative research program for evolutionary psychology. For these authors the phylogeny fallacy is the proximate/evolutionary distinction (...) itself, which they argue constitutes a misunderstanding of development, and its role in the evolutionary process. In this article I argue that the phylogeny fallacy should be relocated to an error of reasoning that this causal framework sustains: the conflation of proximate and evolutionary explanation. Having identified this empirically neutral form of the phylogeny fallacy, I identify its mirror image, the ontogeny fallacy. Through the lens of these fallacies I attempt to solve several outstanding problems in the debate that ensued from Lickliter and Honeycutt’s provocative article. (shrink)
This paper analyses the concept of empirical ethics as well as three meta-ethical fallacies that empirical ethics is said to face: the is-ought problem, the naturalisticfallacy and violation of the fact-value distinction. Moreover, it answers the question of whether empirical ethics (necessarily) commits these three basic meta-ethical fallacies.
The expression conditional fallacy identifies a family of arguments deemed to entail odd and false consequences for notions defined in terms of counterfactuals. The antirealist notion of truth is typically defined in terms of what a rational enquirer or a community of rational enquirers would believe if they were suitably informed. This notion is deemed to entail, via the conditional fallacy, odd and false propositions, for example that the Peircean end of inquiry has been reached or that there (...) is necessarily a rational enquirer. If these consequences followed from the antirealist notion of truth, alethic antirealism should probably be rejected. In this paper we analyse the conditional fallacy from a semantic (i.e. model-theoretic) point of view. This allows us to identify with precision the philosophical commitments that ground the validity of this type of arguments. We show that the conditional fallacy arguments against alethic antirealism are valid only if controversial metaphysical assumptions are accepted. We suggest that the antirealist is not committed to the conditional fallacy because she is not committed to some of these assumptions. (shrink)
Timothy Williamson argues against the tactic of criticizing confidence in a theory by identifying a logical consequence of the theory whose probability is not raised by the evidence. He dubs it "the consequence fallacy". In this paper we will show that Williamson's formulation of the tactic in question is ambiguous. On one reading of Williamson's formulation, the tactic is indeed a fallacy, but it is not a commonly used tactic; on another reading, it is a commonly used tactic (...) (or at least more often used than the former tactic), but it is not a fallacy. (shrink)
William C. Frederick proposes a naturalistic business ethics. Many commentators focus on the issues of naturalisticfallacy, deprivation of freedom of the will, and possibility of important and universal moral values in business ethics. I argue that an ethics being naturalistic is not a worry. The issue of deprivation of free will is irrelevant. Yet there are urgent questions regarding the possibility of important and universal moral values, which may prevent Frederick’s view from getting off the (...) ground. (shrink)
In a recent paper (in Argumentation, 2006) Robert Talisse and Scott Aikin suggest that we ought to recognize two distinct forms of the straw man fallacy. In addition to misrepresenting the strength of an opponent’s specific argument (= the representation form), one can also misrepresent the strength of one’s opposition in general, or the overall state of a debate, by selecting a (relatively) weak opponent for critical consideration (= the selection form). Here I consider whether we as philosophy professors (...) could be seen as sometimes committing the selection form of the straw man through the performance of our regular teaching duties. (shrink)
Many naturalistically-minded philosophers want to accomplish a naturalistic reduction of normative (e.g. moral and epistemic) claims. Mindful of avoiding the naturalisticfallacy, such philosophers claim that they are not reducing moral and epistemic concepts or definitions. Rather, they are only reducing the extension of these normative terms, while admitting that the concepts possess a normative content that cannot be naturalistically reduced. But these philosophers run into a serious problem. I will argue that normative claims possess two dimensions (...) of normativity. I will further argue that certain of the reductionist’s commitments require that these two dimensions of normativity be given a naturalistic reduction, while the other of the reductionist’s commitments make such a reduction impossible. Thus, the reductionist’s commitments both require and forbid a reductionist account of morality and epistemology. Thus, as we will see, reductionism is torn between two incompatible requirements, and must fail. (shrink)
Metaethics is a perennially popular subject, but one that can be challenging to study and teach. As it consists in an array of questions about ethics, it is really a mix of (at least) applied metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of language, and mind. The seminal texts therefore arise out of, and often assume competence with, a variety of different literatures. It can be taught thematically, but this sample syllabus offers a dialectical approach, focused on metaphysical debate over moral realism, which spans (...) the century of debate launched and framed by G. E. Moore's Principia Ethica. The territory and literature are, however, vast. So, this syllabus is highly selective. A thorough metaethics course might also include more topical examination of moral supervenience, moral motivation, moral epistemology, and the rational authority of morality. Authors Recommend: Alexander Miller, An Introduction to Contemporary Metaethics (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2003). This is one of the few clear, accessible, and comprehensive surveys of the subject, written by someone sympathetic with moral naturalism. David Brink, Moral Realism and the Foundations of Ethics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989). Brink rehabilitates naturalism about moral facts by employing a causal semantics and natural kinds model of moral thought and discourse. Michael Smith, The Moral Problem (Oxford: Blackwell, 1994). Smith's book frames the debate as driven by a tension between the objectivity of morality and its practical role, offering a solution in terms of a response-dependent account of practical rationality. Gilbert Harman and Judith Jarvis Thomson, Moral Relativism & Moral Objectivity (Cambridge, MA: Blackwell, 1996). Harman argues against the objectivity of moral value, while Thomson defends it. Each then responds to the other. Frank Jackson, From Metaphysics to Ethics (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998). Jackson argues that reductive conceptual analysis is possible in ethics, offering a unique naturalistic account of moral properties and facts. Mark Timmons, Morality without Foundations (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999). Timmons distinguishes moral cognitivism from moral realism, interpreting moral judgments as beliefs that have cognitive content but do not describe moral reality. He also provides a particularly illuminating discussion of nonanalytic naturalism. Philippa Foot, Natural Goodness (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2001). A Neo-Aristotelian perspective: moral facts are natural facts about the proper functioning of human beings. Russ Shafer-Landau, Moral Realism: A Defence (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2003). In this recent defense of a Moorean, nonnaturalist position, Shafer-Landau engages rival positions in a remarkably thorough manner. Terence Cuneo, The Normative Web (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2007). Cuneo argues for a robust version of moral realism, developing a parity argument based on the similarities between epistemic and moral facts. Mark Schroeder, Slaves of the Passions (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2007). Schroeder defends a reductive form of naturalism in the tradition of Hume, identifying moral and normative facts with natural facts about agents' desires. Online Materials: PEA Soup: http://peasoup.typepad.com A blog devoted to philosophy, ethics, and academia. Its contributors include many active and prominent metaethicists, who regularly post about the moral realism and naturalism debates. Metaethics Bibliography: http://www.lenmanethicsbibliography.group.shef.ac.uk/Bib.htm Maintained by James Lenman, professor of philosophy at the University of Sheffield, this online resource provides a selective list of published research in metaethics. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: http://plato.stanford.edu See especially the entries under 'metaethics'. Sample Syllabus: Topics for Lecture & Discussion Note: unless indicated otherwise, all the readings are found in R. Shafer-Landau and T. Cuneo, eds., Foundations of Ethics: An Anthology (Malden: Blackwell, 2007). (FE) Week 1: Realism I (Classic Nonnaturalism) G. E. Moore, Principia Ethica, 2nd ed. (FE ch. 35). W. K. Frankena, 'The NaturalisticFallacy,'Mind 48 (1939): 464–77. S. Finlay, 'Four Faces of Moral Realism', Philosophy Compass 2/6 (2007): 820–49 [DOI: [DOI link]]. Week 2: Antirealism I (Classic Expressivism) A. J. Ayer, 'Critique of Ethics and Theology' (1952) (FE ch. 3). C. Stevenson, 'The Nature of Ethical Disagreement' (1963) (FE ch. 28). Week 3: Antirealism II (Error Theory) J. L. Mackie, 'The Subjectivity of Values' (1977) (FE ch. 1). R. Joyce, Excerpt from The Myth of Morality (2001) (FE ch. 2). Week 4: Realism II (Nonanalytic Naturalism) R. Boyd, 'How to be a Moral Realist' (1988) (FE ch. 13). P. Railton, 'Moral Realism' (1986) (FE ch. 14). T. Horgan and M. Timmons, 'New Wave Moral Realism Meets Moral Twin Earth' (1991) (FE ch. 38). Week 5: Antirealism III (Contemporary Expressivism) A. Gibbard, 'The Reasons of a Living Being' (2002) (FE ch. 6). S. Blackburn, 'How To Be an Ethical Anti-Realist' (1993) (FE ch. 4). T. Horgan and M. Timmons, 'Nondescriptivist Cognitivism' (2000) (FE ch. 5). W. Sinnott-Armstrong, 'Expressivism and Embedding' (2000) (FE ch. 37). Week 6: Realism III (Sensibility Theory) J. McDowell, 'Values and Secondary Qualities' (1985) (FE ch. 11). D. Wiggins, 'A Sensible Subjectivism' (1991) (FE ch. 12). Week 7: Realism IV (Subjectivism) & Antirealism IV (Constructivism) R. Firth, 'Ethical Absolutism and the Ideal Observer' (1952) (FE ch. 9). G. Harman, 'Moral Relativism Defended' (1975) (FE ch. 7). C. Korsgaard, 'The Authority of Reflection' (1996) (FE ch. 8). Week 8: Realism V (Contemporary Nonnaturalism) R. Shafer-Landau, 'Ethics as Philosophy' (2006) (FE ch. 16). T. M. Scanlon, What We Owe to Each Other (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1998), ch. 1. T, Cuneo, 'Recent Faces of Moral Nonnaturalism', Philosophy Compass 2/6 (2007): 850–79 [DOI: [DOI link]]. (shrink)
The question whether ethical behavior is biologically determined may refer either to the capacity for ethics (i.e., the proclivity to judge human actions as either right or wrong), or to the moral norms accepted by human beings for guiding their actions. I herein propose: (1) that the capacity for ethics is a necessary attribute of human nature; and (2) that moral norms are products of cultural evolution, not of biological evolution. Humans exhibit ethical behavior by nature because their biological makeup (...) determines the presence of three necessary conditions for ethical behavior: (i) the ability to anticipate the consequences of one’s own actions; (ii) the ability to make value judgments; and (iii) the ability to choose between alternative courses of action. Ethical behavior came about in evolution not because it is adaptive in itself, but as a necessary consequence of man’s eminent intellectual abilities, which are an attribute directly promoted by natural selection. That is, morally evolved as an exaptation, not as an adaptation. Since Darwin’s time there have been evolutionists proposing that the norms of morality are derived from biological evolution. Sociobiologists represent the most recent and most subtle version of that proposal. The sociobiologists' argument is that human ethical norms are sociocultural correlates of behaviors fostered by biological evolution. I argue that such proposals are misguided and do not escape the naturalisticfallacy. The isomorphism between the behaviors promoted by natural selection and those sanctioned by moral norms exist only with respect to the consequences of the behaviors; the underlying causations are completely disparate. (shrink)
In his celebrated 'Good and Evil' (l956) Professor Geach fights a war on two fronts. On the one hand, he wants to establish, as against the nonnaturalists, that the predicative 'good', as used by Moore, is senseless. 'Good' when properly used is attributive. 'There is no such thing as being just good or bad, [that is, no predicative 'good'] there is only being a good or bad so and so'. (GE, page 65) The predicative 'good' is a philosopher's word and (...) we cannot be 'asked to take it for granted from the outset that a peculiarly philosophical use of words means anything at all'! (GE, page 67.) Attempts to define this phantom have foundered for the simple reason that there is really no such use to be defined. The search for a property for which 'good' stands - a 'way out of the NaturalisticFallacy' - is a vain one. The idea that 'it' stands for a non-natural property is thus a pseudo-solution to a pseudo-problem. (GE, pages 66-67.) On the other hand, Geach insists, as against non-cognitivists, that good-judgements are entirely 'descriptive'. By a consideration of what it is to be an A, we can determine what it is to be a good A. (shrink)
Natural selection and human nature -- The (earliest) roots of right -- The caveman's conscience -- Just deserts -- The science of virtue and vice -- Social harmony, the good, the bad, and the biologically ugly -- Hume's law -- Moore's naturalisticfallacy -- Rethinking Moore and Hume -- Evolutionary anti-realism : early efforts -- Contemporary evolutionary anti-realism -- Options for the evolutionary realist.
Michael Ruse, in Taking Darwin Seriously seeks to establish that taking Darwin seriously requires us to treat morality as subjective and naturalistic. I argue that, if morality is not objective, then we have no good reason for being moral if we can avoid detection and punishment. As a consequence, we will only continue to behave morally as long as we remain ignorant of Ruse''s theory, that is, as long as the cat is not let out of the bag. Ruse (...) offers a number of arguments to show that his theory can overcome such problems. I argue that they all fail. Ruse also argues that he can offer a naturalistic account of ethics which steps around the naturalisticfallacy and avoids the confusion of reasons with causes. His principal argument for this view is an analogy between spiritualism and morality. I argue that this analogy fails. (shrink)
Recently, there is increased attention to the integration of moral values into the conception, design, and development of emerging IT. The most reviewed approach for this purpose in ethics and technology so far is Value-Sensitive Design (VSD). This article considers VSD as the prime candidate for implementing normative considerations into design. Its methodology is considered from a conceptual, analytical, normative perspective. The focus here is on the suitability of VSD for (...) integrating moral values into the design of technologies in a way that joins in with an analytical perspective on ethics of technology. Despite its promising character, it turns out that VSD falls short in several respects: (1) VSD does not have a clear methodology for identifying stakeholders, (2) the integration of empirical methods with conceptual research within the methodology of VSD is obscure, (3) VSD runs the risk of committing the naturalisticfallacy when using empirical knowledge for implementing values in design, (4) the concept of values, as well as their realization, is left undetermined and (5) VSD lacks a complimentary or explicit ethical theory for dealing with value trade-offs. For the normative evaluation of a technology, I claim that an explicit and justified ethical starting point or principle is required. Moreover, explicit attention should be given to the value aims and assumptions of a particular design. The criteria of adequacy for such an approach or methodology follow from the evaluation of VSD as the prime candidate for implementing moral values in design. (shrink)
It is common to base an inferential semantics on a social, normative pragmatics, thus conceiving meaning as consisting in certain normative relations (Wittgenstein, Sellars, Brandom). This position faces a trilemma, which is of wider application, concerning all normative statements: (1) Normative statements are true or false. Regarding a certain normative statement as true does not imply that it is true, not even if a whole community takes the statement in question to be true (cognitivism). (2) There are no normative entities (...) in the world that make normative statements true (naturalism). (3) It is not possible to deduce normative statements from descriptive statements (naturalisticfallacy). Each of these principles is well grounded considered in isolation, but their conjunction is inconsistent. We have to give up one of these principles. I shall argue in favour of abandoning (3) and outline a naturalistic account of the normative relations that constitute meaning in an inferentialist perspective, while preserving the objectivity of meaning. (shrink)
Bertrand Russell was a meta-ethical pioneer, the original inventor of both emotivism and the error theory. Why, having abandoned emotivism for the error theory, did he switch back to emotivism in the 1920s? Perhaps he did not relish the thought that as a moralist he was a professional hypocrite. In addition, Russell's version of the error theory suffers from severe defects. He commits the naturalisticfallacy and runs afoul of his own and Moore's arguments against subjectivism. These defects (...) could be repaired, but only by abandoning Russell's semantics.Russell preferred to revert to emotivism. (shrink)
The turn to empirical ethics answers two calls. The first is for a richer account of morality than that afforded by bioethical principlism, which is cast as excessively abstract and thin on the facts. The second is for the facts in question to be those of human experience and not some other, unworldly realm. Empirical ethics therefore promises a richer naturalistic ethics, but in fulfilling the second call it often fails to heed the metaethical requirements related to the first. (...) Empirical ethics risks losing the normative edge which necessarily characterizes the ethical, by failing to account for the nature and the logic of moral norms. I sketch a naturalistic theory, teleological expressivism (TE), which negotiates the naturalisticfallacy by providing a more satisfactory means of taking into account facts and research data with ethical implications. The examples of informed consent and the euthanasia debate are used to illustrate the superiority of this approach, and the problems consequent on including the facts in the wrong kind of way. (shrink)
Evolutionary ethics has recently become popular again. Some of its representatives elaborate new attempts to derive ethics from evolutionary biology. The attempts, like previous ones, fail because they commit the naturalisticfallacy. Premises from evolutionary biology together with normative premises also do not justify ethical principles. Other representatives argue that evolutionary considerations imply that ethics cannot be justified at all. Their arguments presuppose an unacceptable form of foundationalism. In principle, evolutionary biology might explain some aspects of morality, but (...) in practice explanations are hard to come by. All this does not imply that evolutionary theory is irrelevant in normative settings. To the contrary, it may help us devise guidelines in environmental policy and health care policy. It is to be hoped that evolutionary ethicists will divert their research efforts to the elaboration of such guidelines. (shrink)
In his recent The Temptation of Evolutionary Ethics, Paul Farber has given a negative assessment of the last one hundred years of attempts in Anglo-American philosophy, beginning with Darwin, to develop an evolutionary ethics. Farber identifies some version of the naturalisticfallacy as one of the central sources for the failures of evolutionary ethics. For this reason, and others, Farber urges that though it has its attraction, evolutionary ethics is a temptation to be resisted. In this discussion I (...) identify three major, historically relevant forms of the naturalisticfallacy, the (1) the deductive, (2) genetic, and (3) open question forms and argue that none of them pose an intrinsic problem for evolutionary ethics. I conclude that on this score at least there is no reason to resist temptation. (shrink)
The new science of Complexity explains that limited knowledge prevents societies from predicting and controlling their developments. But Complexity further suggests that nature uses the limits of knowledge to evolve, which turns an apparent obstacle into an opportunity to reevaluate governmental institutions. As in nature, the limits of knowledge lead social systems to evolve by individuating, liberating, and empowering their members. Societies individuate and liberate their members to probe environments and exploit opportunities. Societies empower individuals to globalize their findings which (...) requires constitutionally constraining governmental powers. Societies that respect human rights thus gain selective advantage. Showing that what nature is models what societies ought to be, Complexity may finesse the "naturalisticfallacy" of Hume and Moore. (shrink)
Neither the English courts nor the National Health Service (NHS) have been immune to the modern mantra of patient choice. This article examines whether beneath the rhetoric any form of real choice is endorsed either in law or in NHS policy. I explore the case law on ‘consent’, look at choice within the NHS and highlight the dilemmas that a mismatch of language and practice poses for clinicians. Given the variance in interpretation and lack of consistency for the individual patient (...) I argue for a semantic change that obviates the use of ‘choice’, focussing instead on the options for treatment that are available and accessible, with due acknowledgement of individual patient preferences, without raising unfettered and false expectations. (shrink)
Michael Ruse has proposed in his recent book Taking Darwin Seriously and elsewhere a new Darwinian ethics distinct from traditional evolutionary ethics, one that avoids the latter's inadequate accounts of the nature of morality and its failed attempts to provide a naturalistic justification of morality. Ruse argues for a sociobiologically based account of moral sentiments, and an evolutionary based casual explanation of their function, rejecting the possibility of ultimate ethical justification. We find that Ruse's proposal distorts, overextends and weakens (...) both Darwinism and naturalism. So we propose an alternative Darwinian metaethics that both remedies the problems in Ruse's proposal and shows how a Darwinian naturalistic account of the moral good in terms of human fitness avoids the naturalisticfallacy and can provide genuine, even if limited, justifications for substantive ethical claims. Thus, we propose to really take Darwin seriously. (shrink)
The search for an ontological basis of medical practice is questioned from the viewpoint that ontologies are always related to the interpreting person in his situation, and that the definition of medicine includes a certain choice. This choice-character comes into greater play when ethical proposals are made. A foundation of medical ethics on an ontology of the healthy body or the factual medical practice is a naturalisticfallacy. Prior to an ontological basis, the ethical event of responsibility for (...) the suffering and transcendent other (Levinas) is constitutive for medicine. This event with its dimension of infinity of the other can only be ontologized by a totalitarian act. A philosophy of medicine should start with the heteronomy of the other. (shrink)
This paper argues that Derrida’s aporetic conclusions regarding moral and political concepts, from hospitality to democracy, can only be understood and accepted if the notion of différance and similar infrastructures are taken into account. This is because it is the infrastructures that expose and commit moral and political practices to a double and conflictual (thus aporetic) future: the conditional future that projects horizonal limits and conditions upon the relation to others, and the unconditional future without horizons of anticipation. The argument (...) thus turns against two kinds of interpretation: The first accepts normative unconditionality in ethics but misses its support by the infrastructures. The second rejects unconditionality as a normative commitment precisely because the infrastructural support for unconditionality seems to rule out that it is normatively required. In conclusion, the article thus reconsiders the relation between a quasi-transcendental argument and its normative implications, suggesting that Derrida avoids the naturalisticfallacy. (shrink)
Part I of this essay described "Ought" and "Value" as forms of moral requiredness. Now in Part II, a description of the ideal conditions for veridical perceptions of moral requiredness are specified. This is done in the form of an ideal observer type of analysis. This analysis is defended against those who oppose naturalism by assuming a bifurcation between 'ought' and 'is' and those who accuse naturalism of a "naturalisticfallacy." It is argued that theistic versions of the (...) ideal observer form of analysis exist in the Christian tradition in logically acceptable and plausible formulations. Specific illustrations are provided. (shrink)
In this paper, I will explore and attempt to define one very important type of egregious discrimination of persons, racism. I will argue that racism involves a kind of logical mistake; specifically. I hope to show that racists commit the naturalisticfallacy. Finally, I will defend my account of racism against two challenges, the most important of which argues that if racism is merely a logical error then racists are not morally culpable.
In ''''A Defense of Evolutionary Ethics'''' (1986), Robert J. Richardsendeavors to explain how moral ''oughts'' can be derived from thescience of evolutionary biology without committing the dreadednaturalistic fallacy. First, Richards assumes that ''ought'' as usedin ethical discourse bears the same meaning as ''ought'' used anywherein science, indicating merely that certain results or behaviors arepredicted based on prior structured contexts. To this extent, themoral behavior of animals, what they ''ought'' to do, could arguablybe predicted by evolutionary biology as effectively as, (...) say,molecular behavior may be predicted by chemistry. But afteracknowledging that biological inferences to this limited senseof ''ought'' were never contested by Moore''s naturalisticfallacy,Richard proposes to add to evolutionary ethics a decision procedureto determine which members of a set of predicted behaviors arethose which truly ought to occur – in the genuinelyprescriptive sense intended by ethical discourse. But theprocedure which Richards fabricates for this purpose appealsto such alleged ''facts'' as cultural conventions and moral opinionpolling, hardly a secure foundation for the sort of scientific ethics promised by Richards at the outset. (shrink)
Medicine does not usually consider the human body from an aesthetic point of view. This article explores the notion of the lived body as aesthetic object in anthropological medicine, concentrating on the views of Buytendijk and Straus on human uprightness and gracefulness. It is argued that their insights constitute a counter-balance to the way the human body is predominantly approached in medicine and medical ethics. In particular, (1) the relationship between anthropological, aesthetic and ethical norms, (2) the possible danger of (...) a naturalisticfallacy, (3) the implications for the care of disabled people and (4) the intrinsic aesthetic quality of the human body are dealt with. (shrink)
How natural is natural deduction?– Gentzen's system of natural deduction intends to fit logical rules to the effective mathematical reasoning in order to overcome the artificiality of deductions in axiomatic systems (¶ 2). In spite of this reform some of Gentzen's rules for natural deduction are criticised by psychologists and natural language philosophers for remaining unnatural. The criticism focuses on the principle of extensionality and on formalism of logic (¶ 3). After sketching the criticism relatively to the main rules, I (...) argue that the criteria of economy, simplicity, pertinence etc., on which the objections are based, transcend the strict domain of logic and apply to arguments in general (¶ 4). (¶ 5) deals with Frege's critique of the concept of naturalness as regards logic. It is shown that this concept means a regression into psychologism and is exposed to the same difficulties as are: relativity, lack of precision, the error of arguing from `is' to `ought' (the naturalisticfallacy). Despite of these, the concept of naturalness plays the role of a diffuse ideal which favours the construction of alternative deductive systems in contrast to the platonic conception of logic (¶ 6). (shrink)
This paper explains and defends three basic propositions: (1) that our attitudes (particularly American attitudes) towardorganizational ethics are conflicted at a fairly deep level; (2) that in response to this conflict in our attitudes, we often default to variouscounterfeits of conscience (non-moral systems that serve as surrogates for the role of conscience in organizational settings); and(3) that a better response (than relying on counterfeits) would be for leaders to foster a culture of ethical awareness in their organizations. Some practical suggestions (...) are made about fostering such a culture, and a comparison is made between this late-20th-century response to the problem of counterfeits and the classic “naturalisticfallacy” identified in early-20th-century ethics by G. E. Moore. (shrink)
Context: Introduced in 1970, bioethics is now more and more commonly used since it applies to a variety of concepts belonging to traditional Western thought. Just like other dualisms that are typical of traditional Western thought (e.g., mind/body, subject/object, philosophy/science), bioethics is developing in areas that are mostly isolated from each other, with each argument restricted to its specific space, without affecting the general concept of bioethics. It is also characterized by the dualism ought/being. Purpose: I maintain that the definition (...) of a relevant moral criterion should include the whole scope of thinking and the whole adopted perspective. Consequently, the current conception of bioethics should be changed. Such an alternative view objects to the fragmentation of knowledge. In this way, specifically in bioethics, our way of living and life itself acquire an ethical dimension. Maturana’s theory is expected to be a useful instrument for dealing with the difficulties that the concept of “bioethics” brings. Method: First, traditional bioethics and its way of dealing with some of its typical problems are discussed. Then, Maturana’s epistemology, including his emphasis on the observer, his biology of cognition located in “languaging,” and his ethics of love are described. Its features, such as trust and respect, will be highlighted, taking into account his modality of speaking as a biologist, exposed to the risk of “naturalisticfallacy” but dispelling it thanks to – I argue – the radical difference between Maturana’s theory and the traditional Western epistemology. Results: Maturana’s definition of ethics leads to the conclusion that the whole of living is ethics, the whole of life is ethics, and there is no separation existing between the “ought” and the “being.” Bioethics, and also ethics, dissolve themselves in the circularity of the living, which operates in the living-acting of each human being in the systemic texture they belong to and which they contribute to creating in an open-ended process of “languaging.”. (shrink)
Many think that evolutionary biology has relevance to ethics, but how far that relevance extends is a matter of debate. It is easy to show that pop sociobiological approaches to ethics all commit some type of naturalisticfallacy. More sophisticated attempts, like Donald Campbell's, or, more recently, Robert Richards', are not so easily refuted, but I will show that they too reason fallaciously from facts to values. What remains is the possibility of an evolutionary search for human nature. (...) Unfortunately, evolutionary theory itself seems to imply that the quest for human nature will not be very promising. As far as there is such a thing as human nature, we will have to know it before we can meaningfully talk about its evolution. Anthropological data suggest that we differ widely in our normative judgments. And even where we seem to agree, there is good reason to doubt that we really do so. (shrink)
In recent metaethics there has been a great deal of discussion regarding moral realism. Moral realism in the tradition of ethical naturalism has been revitalized in the form of a synthetic ethical naturalism. This brand of moral realism has interesting theoretical implications for individualistic and holistic models of environmental ethics. In this paper I argue that most theorists of environmental ethics presuppose an irrealist metaethic out of fear of violating Hume's law and Moore's naturalisticfallacy (e.g., Callicott, Taylor, (...) Elliot, and Sterba, while Rolston is a notable exception). But if we take moral realism (in the form of synthetic ethical naturalism) seriously, then environmental ethics has more options than the conventional metaethical maxims of Hume's law and Moore's naturalisticfallacy would allow. Accordingly, I lay out various prospects for a realist environmental metaethic. Environ-moral realism is an attempt to ground nonanthropocentrism in a realist metaethic. (shrink)
This paper attempts to explain the significance of the ideologies — or middle-level normative discourse — described by Kenneth Goodpaster in his paper Business Ethics, Ideology, and the NaturalisticFallacy. It is argued that the propositions constitutive of this discourse are not invokable moral principles (i.e. principles which generate solutions to actual moral problems). Rather, they are characterizations of the normative contexts in which moral decisions are made. As such, they place limits on the ways in which the (...) abstract moral principles of traditional moral theory may be applied or interpreted in making real-life moral decisions. (shrink)
For much of the twentieth century, philosophy and science went their separate ways. In moral philosophy, fear of the so-called naturalisticfallacy kept moral philosophers from incorporating developments in biology and psychology. Since the 1990s, however, many philosophers have drawn on recent advances in cognitive psychology, brain science, and evolutionary psychology to inform their work. This collaborative trend is especially strong in moral philosophy, and these three volumes bring together some of the most innovative work by both philosophers (...) and psychologists in this emerging interdisciplinary field. (shrink)
Broadly speaking, a naturalistic approach to epistemology seeks to explain human knowledge – and justification in particular – as a phenomenon in the natural world, in keeping with the tenets of naturalism. Naturalism is typically defined, in part, by a commitment to scientific method as the only legitimate means of attaining knowledge of the natural world. Naturalism is often thought to entail empiricism by virtue of this methodological commitment. However, scientific methods themselves may incorporate a priori elements, so empiricism (...) does not follow from the methodological commitments of naturalism alone. And given a suitably-naturalistic conception of the a priori, a priori forms of justification may be compatible with naturalism generally. -/- A priori justification is, in principle, compatible with naturalism – and hence naturalistic epistemologies – if the a priori is understood in a way that is free of some of the inessential properties that have been associated with the concept. I argue that some of the more prominent strategies for accommodating normative notions within a naturalistic framework allow for the possibility of a priori justification. These include reliabilism, instrumental rationality, and (partial) nonfactualism about justification. A priori justification thus need not be seen as standing in opposition to all naturalistic epistemologies. It is only with nonnormative naturalistic epistemologies that a priori justification per se is incompatible, and this only because the notion of justification itself has no role to play within a nonnormative approach to epistemology. (shrink)
In this refreshingly original and accessible investigation into the nature of metaphysics, Heather Dyke argues that for too long philosophy has suffered from a language fixation. Where this language fixation leads philosophers to reason badly, she calls it the ‘‘representational fallacy’’. She illustrates the various ways it can lead philosophers astray and argues that metaphysics can be better done without it. She discusses the philosophy of time as an illustration of how a metaphysical debate about the nature of time (...) was needlessly transformed into a sterile debate about language and of how, once the focus on language is dropped, a new metaphysical strategy emer- ges. Dyke shows how the same applies to other debates in metaphysics and how this promises fruitful new research programmes, where the focus is on ontology rather than on language. The clear and accessible way in which current practice in metaphysics is brought under the spotlight will challenge philosophers to examine their own methodology. (shrink)
For much of the twentieth century, philosophy and science went their separate ways. In moral philosophy, fear of the so-called naturalisticfallacy kept moral philosophers from incorporating developments in biology and psychology. Since the 1990s, however, many philosophers have drawn on recent advances in cognitive psychology, brain science, and evolutionary psychology to inform their work. This collaborative trend is especially strong in moral philosophy, and these three volumes bring together some of the most innovative work by both philosophers (...) and psychologists in this emerging interdisciplinary field. (shrink)
When read as a theory that is supposed to mirror, represent or fit some collection of historical data, critics argue that Kuhn’s theory of paradigm shift in Structure of Scientific Revolutions fails by cherry-picking and underdetermination. When read as the ground for a socio-epistemological conception of rationality, critics argue that Kuhn’s theory fails by either the naturalisticfallacy or underarticulation. This paper suggests that we need not view Structure as a historian’s attempt to accurately depict scientific theory change (...) or a philosopher’s attempt to suggest, more normatively, the factors we ought to consider in theory choice. Instead, we might use Kuhn’s theory as a metaphilosophical frame through which to better understand the limits of otherwise intractable philosophical debates. We can focus on Kuhn’s theory not as a proposition or model to confirm, but as something we might use as a tool for understanding. Philosophers have discussed the justice and care orientations in ethics as two theories for which there will be some common, constraining set of intuitions to confirm one theory over the other, to demonstrate that protecting rights is fundamentally more valuable that fulfilling needs or that fulfilling needs is fundamentally more valuable that protecting rights. Instead of conceptualizing this conversation as a choice between two theories, this paper looks to Ian Hacking’s interpretation of Kuhn’s paradigm concept to suggest that working in the world of justice is very different than working in the world of care, as each orientation is a paradigm with its own cognitive and contextual standards of theory assessment. To start, after Larry Laudan, each has its own ontology, methodology, aims and values. But moreover, after Ian Hacking, each has an even larger, entrenched collection of projectible predicates. Though Carol Gilligan herself uses the metaphor of gestalt shift in a few places to characterize the move from the justice to the care perspective, the insight—that what many assume to be a standard exercise in theory choice is really more of a paradigm shift—has been under theorized by ethicists and ignored by philosophers of science. This paper brings the full resources of Structure and its secondary literature to this metaethical issue, while making the larger point that Structure has an important pragmatic role to play, when it comes to the understanding philosophical debates, even if we cannot secure the truth of Kuhn’s theory. (shrink)
Testosterone's connection to sex differences and key evolutionary processes arouses controversy. Effects on humans and other species, though, are not robotically deterministic but are parts of complex interactions. We discuss the societal implications of these findings and consider how the naturalisticfallacy and the person–situation dichotomy contribute to misunderstandings here.
In Natural Ethical Facts William Casebeer argues that we can articulate a fully naturalized ethical theory using concepts from evolutionary biology and cognitive science, and that we can study moral cognition just as we study other forms of cognition. His goal is to show that we have "softly fixed" human natures, that these natures are evolved, and that our lives go well or badly depending on how we satisfy the functional demands of these natures. Natural Ethical Facts is a comprehensive (...) examination of what a plausible moral science would look like.Casebeer begins by discussing the nature of ethics and the possible relationship between science and ethics. He then addresses David Hume's naturalisticfallacy and G. E. Moore's open-question argument, drawing on the work of John Dewey and W. V. O. Quine. He then proposes a functional account of ethics, offering corresponding biological and moral descriptions. Discussing in detail the neural correlates of moral cognition, he argues that neural networks can be used to model ethical function. He then discusses the impact his views of moral epistemology and ontology will have on traditional ethical theory and moral education, concluding that there is room for other moral theories as long as they take into consideration the functional aspect of ethics; the pragmatic neo-Aristotelian virtue theory he proposes thus serves as a moral "big tent." Finally, he addresses objections to ethical naturalism that may arise, and calls for a reconciliation of the sciences and the humanities. "Living well," Casebeer writes, "depends upon reweaving our ethical theories into the warp and woof of our scientific heritage, attending to the myriad consequences such a project will have for the way we live our lives and the manner in which we structure our collective moral institutions.". (shrink)