Normative Appeals to the Natural

Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 79 (2):279 - 314 (2009)
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Abstract

Surprisingly, many ethical realists and anti-realists, naturalists and not, all accept some version of the following normative appeal to the natural (NAN): evaluative and normative facts hold solely in virtue of natural facts, where their naturalness is part of what fits them for the job. This paper argues not that NAN is false but that NAN has no adequate non-parochial justification (a justification that relies only on premises which can be accepted by more or less everyone who accepts NAN) to back up this consensus. I show that we cannot establish versions of NAN which are interesting in their own right (and not merely as instances of a general naturalistic ontology) by appealing to the nature of natural properties or the kind of in-virtue-of relation to which NAN refers, plus other plausible nonparochial assumptions. On the way, I distinguish different types of 'in virtue of claims. I conclude by arguing that the way in which assessment of meta-ethical hypotheses is theory-dependent predicts the failure of non-parochial justifications of NAN

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Pekka Väyrynen
University of Leeds

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