Normative naturalism and normative nihilism: Parfit's dilemma for naturalism

In Simon Kirchin (ed.), Reading Parfit: On What Matters. London: Routledge (2017)
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The fundamental issue dividing normative naturalists and non-naturalists concerns the nature of normativity. Non-naturalists hold that the normativity of moral properties and facts sets them apart from natural properties and facts in an important and deep way. As Derek Parfit explains matters, the normative naturalist distinguishes between normative concepts and the natural properties to which these concepts refer and also between normative propositions and the natural facts in virtue of which such propositions are true when they are true. This chapter explains Parfit's Soft Naturalist's Dilemma. Parfit thinks that normative naturalism is "close to nihilism". According to normative naturalism, normative claims are intended to state facts. Naturalism denies that there are such facts, and yet Soft Naturalism claims that there nevertheless is reason to continue to have normative concepts and to use normative sentences. There is the 'eliminativist' strategy of arguing that in fact no property is normative since all normative properties are natural and no natural property is normative.



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David Copp
University of California, Davis

Citations of this work

On Parfit’s Ontology.Kian Mintz-Woo - 2018 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 48 (5):707-725.
Naturalism and normative cognition.Matthew S. Bedke - 2021 - Philosophical Studies 178 (1):147-167.

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