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)
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)
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)
Much of modern moral philosophy argued that there are is's in this world, and there are oughts, but that the two are entirely independent of one another. What this meant was that morality had nothing to do with man's biological nature, and could not be derived from it. Any such attempt was considered to be a categorical mistake, and plain foolish. Most philosophers still believe this, but a growing group of neonaturalist thinkers are now challenging their assumptions. Here I consider (...) the latest work of one of them, Patricia Churchland, on what neurobiology teaches us about morality, and ask whether her challenge means that the naturalisticfallacy, as it is known, should be laid to rest. I argue that while there may be no such thing as a human trait divorced from human biology, this does not necessarily mean that our natures produce constraints that are relevant to specific moral dilemmas. (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..
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)
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)
G. E. MOORE'S PROOF THAT 'GOOD' CANNOT BE DEFINED IS THE\nANALOGUE OF HUME'S PROOF THAT THE IDEA OF CAUSE HAS NO\nEMPIRICAL CORRELATE. AS A PROOF, IT CANNOT SUSTAIN ETHICAL\nINTUITIONISM, EMOTIVISM, OR THE VARIOUS MODIFICATIONS OF\nETHICAL NATURALISM WHICH HAVE BEEN MADE TO REST UPON IT.\nHOWEVER, IT DOES SUSTAIN THE THEORY THAT VALUES ARE CAUSES\nOF HUMAN RESPONSES, AND THAT, UNDER A METHODOLOGICAL\nINTERPRETATION OF OBJECTIVITY, VALUES HAVE OBJECTIVE\nCOGNITIVE STATUS AS CAUSES OF RESPONSES IN THE\nCONSCIOUSNESS OF A HYPOTHETICAL BEING, AN IDEAL OBSERVER.
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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.
In this article (1) I extract from Brentano’s works (three) formal arguments against “genealogical explanations” of ethical claims. Such explanation can also be designated as “naturalism” (not his appellation); (2) I counter these arguments, by showing how genealogical explanations of even apodictic moral claims are logically possible (albeit only if certain unlikely, stringent conditions are met); (3) I show how Nietzsche’s ethics meets these stringent conditions, but evolutionary ethics does not. My more general thesis is that naturalism and intuitionism in (...) ethics need not be mutually incompatible. (shrink)
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)
On What Makes an Epistemology Naturalistic. Since the publication of W. V. Quine's classic paper "Epistemology Naturalized" there have been many discussion on the virtues and vices of naturalistic epistemology. Within these discussions not much attention has been paid to a basic question: What makes an epistemology naturalistic? I give an answer by providing a logical geography of competing naturalistic positions. Then I defend naturalistic epistemology against the charge of the so-called causal fallacy. Finally (...) I give a critical appraisal of different naturalistic theories of knowledge and introduce cooperative naturalism as the most promising research strategy. (shrink)