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Res Philosophica

Volume 91, Issue 4, October 2014
Moral Nonnaturalism

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Displaying: 1-6 of 6 documents

1. Res Philosophica: Volume > 91 > Issue: 4
William J. FitzPatrick Skepticism about Naturalizing Normativity: In Defense of Ethical Nonnaturalism
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There is perhaps no more widely shared conviction in contemporary metaethics, even among those who hold otherwise divergent views, than that practical normativity must be capable of being naturalized (i.e., captured fully within a metaphysically naturalist worldview). My aim is to illuminate the central reasons for skepticism about this. While certain naturalizing projects are plausible for very limited purposes, it is unlikely that any can provide everything we might reasonably want from an account of goodness and badness, rightness and wrongness, and unqualified reasons for acting—at least if we are unwilling to accept certain deflationary or bullet-biting moves. Some naturalizing views can be shown to fail outright to capture the relevant normative facts or properties, while others have more promise but can also be seen to have certain limitations and costs, failing to capture elements that some of us take to be important to an adequate theory of practical normativity. There are, of course, far more naturalizing moves than can be considered here, so the aim is not to establish the truth of nonnaturalism through a process of elimination. But I hope to say enough to bring out the central worries about naturalizing projects and to pose some challenges that apply more widely, with the aim of showing that ethical nonnaturalism remains an attractive and well-motivated option at least for those of us who reject both nihilism and various forms of ethical deflation.
2. Res Philosophica: Volume > 91 > Issue: 4
Nicholas Laskowski How to Pull a Metaphysical Rabbit out of an End-Relational Semantic Hat
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Analytic reductivism in metaethics has long been out of philosophical vogue. In Confusion of Tongues: A Theory of Normativity (2014), Stephen Finlay tries to resuscitate it by developing an analytic metaethical reductive naturalistic semantics for ‘good.’ He argues that an end-relational semantics is the simplest account that can explain all of the data concerning the term, and hence the most plausible theory of it. I argue that there are several assumptions that a reductive naturalist would need to make about contextual parameter completion, to derive reductive naturalism from an end-relational semantics—assumptions that nonnaturalists might forcefully resist. I also argue for the claim that an end-relational semantics could provide surprising resources for nonnaturalists to address semantic worries about their views—the upshot of which paints the way for a new and sophisticated nonnaturalism about the semantics of moral discourse. Nonnaturalists have long suspected that they need not worry about semantics and this paper lends support to that suspicion.
3. Res Philosophica: Volume > 91 > Issue: 4
Justin Morton, Eric Sampson Parsimony and the Argument from Queerness
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In his recent book Error Theory: History, Critique, Defence, Jonas Olson attempts to revive the argument from queerness originally made famous by J. L. Mackie. In this paper, we do three things. First, we eliminate four untenable formulations of the argument. Second, we argue that the most plausible formulation is one that depends crucially upon considerations of parsimony. Finally, we evaluate this formulation of the argument. We conclude that it is unproblematic for proponents of moral nonnaturalism—the target of the argument from queerness.
4. Res Philosophica: Volume > 91 > Issue: 4
Aaron Elliott Can Moral Principles Explain Supervenience?
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The distribution of moral properties supervenes on the distribution of natural properties, and this provides a puzzle for nonnaturalism: what could explain supervenience if moral properties are not natural properties? Enoch claims moral principles explain supervenience. But this solution is incomplete without an account of what moral principles and properties are, and what relation holds between them. This paper begins to develop such an account by exploring analogous issues for Realism about Laws of nature in philosophy of science. Appealing to Mumford’s Central Dilemma for Realism about Laws, I argue that for moral principles to explain supervenience, moral properties must be ontologically dependent on the principles. I suggest that moral properties are relations between moral principles and natural properties. I also explore what it would take to adapt this explanation to a pluralistic theory of morality. Contributory reasons avoid the Cartwright Problem for Laws in a way component forces cannot.
5. Res Philosophica: Volume > 91 > Issue: 4
Christopher Cowie A New Explanatory Challenge for Nonnaturalists
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According to some contemporary nonnaturalists about normativity (e.g., Parfit, Scanlon, Dworkin), normative facts exist in an ontologically non-committing sense. These nonnaturalists face an explanatory burden. They must explain their claim that normative facts exist in such a sense. I identify criteria for an adequate explanation, and extract five distinct candidate explanations from the writings of these authors (based on causal efficacy, analogy with modality, fundamentality, domain-relativity and first-order considerations respectively). I assess each. None is both (a) informative and (b) recognizable as a version of contemporary nonnaturalism. In light of this, I assess the best options for proponents of this view.
6. Res Philosophica: Volume > 91 > Issue: 4
Peter A. Sutton Moore's "New" Open Question Argument
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For more than 100 years, metaethicists have overlooked the best version of G. E. Moore’s Open Question Argument. This despite the fact that it appears on the same page of Principia Ethica as his other, weaker versions of the argument. This better Open Question Argument does not rely on introspection of the meanings of ethical terms, and so does not fall to the standard criticisms of Moore. In this paper, I present this “new” Open Question Argument and show that Moore has done to naturalistic ethics something like what Plato’s Euthyphro does to supernaturalistic ethics.