The Naturalness of the Naturalistic Fallacy and the Ethics of Nanotechnology

In Sven Ove Hansson (ed.), The Role of Technology in Science: Philosophical Perspectives. Dordrecht: Springer Verlag (2015)
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In the first part of this paper, I try to clear the ground from frequent misconceptions about the relationship between fact and value by examining some uses of the adjective “natural” in ethical controversies. Such uses bear evidence to our “natural” tendency to regard nature (considered in a descriptive sense, as the complex of physical and biological regularities) as the source of ethical norms. I then try to account for the origin of this tendency by offering three related explanations, the most important of which regards it as the outcome of an adaptation: if any behaviour that favours our equilibrium with the environment is potentially adaptive, nothing can be more effective for this goal than developing an attitude toward the natural world that regards it as a dispenser of sacred norms that must be invariably respected. By referring to the Aristotelian notion of human flourishing illustrated in the first part of the paper, in the second I discuss some ethical problems raised by mini-chips implantable under in our bodies. I conclude by defending the potential beneficial effects of such new technological instruments.

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Mauro Dorato
Università degli Studi Roma Tre


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