Ethics as Philosophy_A Defense of Ethical Nonnaturalism.pdf - 10 Ethics as Philosophy A Defense of Ethical Nonnaturalism Russ Shafer-Landau It is early

Ethics as Philosophy_A Defense of Ethical Nonnaturalism.pdf...

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10 Ethics as Philosophy A Defense of Ethical Nonnaturalism Russ Shafer-Landau It is early days in the Principia Ethica when Moore presents us with his famous argument from elimination on behalf of ethical nonnaturalism. Moore thought that there were three options when it came to a diagnosis of ethical concepts. Ethical notions are either meaningless, susceptible of a naturalistic analysis, or nonnatural. Neither of the first two options appealed. Ethical nonnaturalism won by default. It took only a long generation before nonnaturalism’s star began to fade. The ascendancy of noncognitivist views, and the resurgence of naturalistic ones, were prompted by the perception that nonnaturalism suffered from fatal flaws. By century’s end, this perception had become so widespread as to be rightly considered a bit of conventional philosophical wisdom. I think that this critical, and often dismissive, attitude is mistaken—as mistaken as Moore’s contention that he had identified a line of argument that proved, once and for all, the falsity of ethical naturalism. It is a commonplace that philosophical preferences are cyclical, and that the runt of the litter in one era may elbow out its competition in later times. Ethical nonnaturalism, for decades consigned to second-class status, is due a reappraisal. The nonnaturalism I favor is a brand of moral realism. As I understand it, moral realism is the view that says that most moral judgments are beliefs, some of which are true, and, when true, are so by virtue of correctly repres- enting the existence of truth-makers for their respective contents. Further, and crucially, true moral judgments are made true in some way other than by virtue of the attitudes taken towards their content by any actual or idealized human agent. My thanks to Paul Bloomfield, whose sense and gentle suasion I too frequently ignored in preparing the final version of this paper. Thanks also to Terence Cuneo, who gave me a number of incisive criticisms and sug- gestions for improvement.
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Not all nonnaturalisms are realistic—Kantian views, for instance, reject the assimilation of moral to natural properties, and yet also reject realism. I will proceed on the assumption (unargued here) that realism is the best path for nonnaturalists. ¹ After describing nonnaturalism, and identifying the most serious worries that face it, I will undertake a partial defense against a number of those problems. My preferred strategy for doing so invokes a parallel between philosophy in general, and ethics in particular. My contention is that once we pay special attention to this relationship, a number of the traditional concerns about nonnaturalism begin to seem less pressing than they have for a long while. 1. The nature of nonnaturalism Ethical nonnaturalism is, first and foremost, a metaphysical doctrine. It claims that there are instantiated moral properties that are not natural properties.
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