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Res Philosophica

Volume 91, Issue 4, October 2014

Moral Nonnaturalism

Nicholas Laskowski
Pages 589-607
DOI: 10.11612/resphil.2014.91.4.2

How to Pull a Metaphysical Rabbit out of an End-Relational Semantic Hat

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.