Tristram McPherson
Ohio State University
It is widely accepted that the ethical supervenes on the natural, where this is roughly the claim that it is impossible for two circumstances to be identical in all natural respects, but different in their ethical respects. This chapter refines and defends the traditional thought that this fact poses a significant challenge to ethical non-naturalism, a view on which ethical properties are fundamentally different in kind from natural properties. The challenge can be encapsulated in three core claims which the chapter defends: that a defensible non-naturalism is committed to the supervenience of the ethical, that this commits the non-naturalist to a brute necessary connection between properties of distinct kinds, and that commitment to such brute connections counts against the non-naturalist’s view. Each of these claims has recently been challenged. Against Nicholas Sturgeon’s recent doubts about the dialectical force of supervenience, this chapter defends a supervenience thesis as deserving to be common ground among ethical realists. It is then argued that attempts to explain supervenience on behalf of the non-naturalist either fail as explanations, generate near-identical explanatory burdens elsewhere, or appeal to commitments that are inconsistent with core motivations for non-naturalism. The chapter concludes that, suitably refined, the traditional argument against nonnaturalism from supervenience is alive and well.
Keywords ethical non-naturalism  supervenience  Hume's dictum  Non-reductive ethical naturalism
Categories (categorize this paper)
Buy the book Find it on
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

 PhilArchive page | Other versions
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library
Chapters BETA

References found in this work BETA

On What Matters: Two-Volume Set.Derek Parfit - 2011 - Oxford University Press.
Principia Ethica.G. E. Moore - 1903 - Dover Publications.
Moral Realism: A Defence.Russ Shafer-Landau - 2003 - Oxford University Press.

View all 45 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Against Grounding Necessitarianism.Alexander Skiles - 2015 - Erkenntnis 80 (4):717-751.
The Metaphysics of Moral Explanations.Daniel Fogal & Olle Risberg - 2020 - Oxford Studies in Metaethics 15.
The Sense of Incredibility in Ethics.Nicholas Laskowski - 2019 - Philosophical Studies 176 (1):93-115.
Conciliationism and Uniqueness.Nathan Ballantyne & E. J. Coffman - 2012 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 90 (4):657-670.

View all 22 citations / Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Yes to Realism! No to Nonnaturalism! Ulysses - 2009 - Kritike 3 (1):168-177.
Moral Discourse and Descriptive Properties.Brad Majors - 2005 - Philosophical Quarterly 55 (220):475–494.
Physicalism and Moorean Supervenience.Thomas W. Polger - 2013 - Analytic Philosophy 54 (1):72-92.
Why Naturalism?David Copp - 2003 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 6 (2):179-200.
Anti-Reductionism and Supervenience.Michael Ridge - 2007 - Journal of Moral Philosophy 4 (3):330-348.
Realism, Nominalism, and Biological Naturalism.James D. Madden - 2011 - International Philosophical Quarterly 51 (1):85-102.
Replies to Papers.Terry Horgan - 2002 - Grazer Philosophische Studien 63 (1):302-340.
Nonreductive Ethical Naturalism.Andrew B. Schoedinger - 2007 - The Proceedings of the Twenty-First World Congress of Philosophy 1:3-6.


Added to PP index

Total views
2,989 ( #769 of 2,409,931 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
264 ( #1,605 of 2,409,931 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes