Moral Realism• Moral truths = God-independent transcendent truths. Maths analogy. Platonism. Moral elitism. Acrasia.• Moral truths = natural facts. The open question argument and the naturalistic fallacy.• Moral truths = relational properties which provide reasons for action. Analogy with secondary properties.• Issues: How is knowledge of moral truth possible? How is agreement over moral truth possible? To what extent can such truths motivate/justify action?
Ethical naturalism:• a metaethical view, a form of moral realism, and so in turn a form of cognitivism.• The ethical naturalist holds: that ethical sentences express propositions, some such propositions are true and those propositions are made true by objective features of the world.• Hence moral features of the world can be reduced to some set of non-moral features. •From Wikipedia
Ethical Naturalism: the details• moral facts are identical with (or reducible to) natural facts, especially psychological facts.• what is morally desirable = what is in fact desired• moral propositions simply report or describe how things are in the world.• So moral truths are real, but they aren’t transcendental
Moral Naturalism• “…asks no more of the world than we already know is there—the ordinary features of things on the basis of which we make decisions about them, like or dislike them, fear them and avoid them, desire them and seek them out. It asks no more than this: a natural world, and patterns of reaction to it.” – Simon Blackburn
Ethics: science, not mystery• ‘parsimonious naturalistic metaphysics’: no nonnatural or supernatural facts.• objective moral facts and properties are facts about the natural world.• so ethics is an empirical science dealing with moral facts about the normative and evaluative dimension of events, character, judgement and states• This category of facts is not mysterious, special, transcendent, or sui generis, but within the scope of the natural and social sciences.
Ethical Naturalism at work• So, for instance, in explaining why torture is wrong my moral judgement describes a naturalistic state of affairs. – Everyone agrees that eating people is wrong – this is just a natural fact about human beings.• For the same reason, incest is not right – – the play ‘Oedipus’, although written in ancient Greece, speaks to us all – …because it details a moral fact that is an actual fact.
General strengths• Realism without mystery: – makes robust sense of moral objectivity and moral knowledge, allows moral utterances to be truth-apt and for some of them to be true. – the domain of moral value is part of the familiar natural world, known about in broadly empirical ways. – Fact/value distinction is rejected• preferable to rival forms of moral realism, such as Platonic Realism (Mackie: “queer”): no metaphysically far out entities or properties without a plausible epistemic story of how we can obtain knowledge of them.• ‘Best available explanation’ - J. J. C. Smarts view – – science is best guide to metaphysical truth but not infallible. – As a work in progress, still far more to be trusted than theology, speculative metaphysics.
Issues:• Is morality amenable to observational testing, just as scientific principles are?• Moore’s Naturalistic Fallacy: can natural properties be good? – What is pleasurable, what is desirable, and what are proper functions of a person might not be what is good for that person, – but even if they were, they are not the same as, or the definition of, what is good.• EN wrong or vague as – 1) much present science will turn out false; – 2) our present grasp of what an ideal science might say about morals is vague; – 3) what ‘nature’ means or ‘natural law’ means is vague;
Forms of Ethical Naturalism• The Aristotelian view of the ‘good life’ as being to do with the flourishing or realisation of the natural capacities of human beings means that ethical values are reducible to natural properties. (See also the Stoic notion of "activities which are consequential upon a things nature“).• Nietzsche’s view of the importance of the Will to Power as the mechanism which explains why things are as they are.• Nihilism: it is a natural fact that there are no moral truths. Morality is merely a superstitious remnant of religion.• Modern evolutionary psychology: Ethical values are natural properties studied by e.g. the social sciences rather than the physical sciences. Remember Marc Hauser’s Trolley Problems we did last year?• Utilitarianism/Consequentialism: pleasure is good, and whether something is pleasurable or not is a natural fact.• Some forms of emotivism: the ‘Common principle of the human frame’ is the same for all of us.
Your turn• How would the following be recuperable as moral naturalists? – Mill – Nietzsche – Aristotle – Hume (later on)
Homework for Thursday• Read ahead in handout about: – Moral truths = relational properties which provide reasons for action. Analogy with secondary properties.
Easter Homework• Revise as seems best to you: – Philosophy of Mind – Normative Ethics: Kant, Mill, Aristotle, Mill, Ross – Metaethics: Emotivism, Cultural Relativism, Moral Realism (Plato), Moral Realism (Ethical Naturalism)• And: consider – what practical ethical problem would you choose to consider?