The Naturalistic Fallacy and the History of Metaethics

In The Naturalistic Fallacy. Cambridge University Press (2018)
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This chapter -- the first in the edited collection "The Naturalistic Fallacy" (Cambridge University Press 2019) -- locates the naturalistic fallacy within the context of the other claims Moore defends in Principia Ethica. I explore the notions of “definition” and “analysis” as Moore understood them and set out in detail the multiple interpretations of the fallacy and open question argument. I then take a broad view of the influence of the fallacy on the Century of metaethics that came after Moore, covering topics such as the non-cognitivist appropriation of the open question argument, the mid-Century Humean turn in which the inferential form of the fallacy was dominant, and the fallacy’s role – at the end of the Century – in framing new forms of naturalism. Finally, I argue that these multiple strands of influence demonstrate that, to a large extent, contemporary ethics – and metaethics in particular – can be understood through the framing lens of the naturalistic fallacy.



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Neil Sinclair
Nottingham University

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