Explaining Practical Normativity

Topoi 37 (4):621-630 (2018)
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Ethical non-naturalists often charge that their naturalist competitors cannot adequately explain the distinctive normativity of moral or more broadly practical concepts. I argue that the force of the charge is mitigated, because non-naturalism is ultimately committed to a kind of mysterianism about the metaphysics of practical norms that possesses limited explanatory power. I then show that focusing on comparative judgments about the explanatory power of various metaethical theories raises additional problems for the non-naturalist, and suggest grounds for optimism that a naturalistic realist about practical normativity will ultimately be able to explain the distinctive normativity of practical norms. I then show that radical pluralism or particularism about the structure of normative ethics would complicate the naturalistic strategy that I defend. This suggests a perhaps surprising way in which the resolution of the debate between ethical naturalists and non-naturalists may rest in part on the answers to substantive normative questions.
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