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Philosophical Studies

, Volume 175, Issue 2, pp 339–362 | Cite as

Realist ethical naturalism for ethical non-naturalists

  • Ryan StringerEmail author
Article

Abstract

It is common in metaethics today to draw a distinction between “naturalist” and “non-naturalist” versions of moral realism, where the former view maintains that moral properties are natural properties, while the latter view maintains that they are non-natural properties instead. The nature of the disagreement here can be understood in different ways, but the most common way is to understand it as a metaphysical disagreement. In particular, the disagreement here is about the reducibility of moral properties, where the “naturalists” maintain that moral properties are in some way reducible to the lower-level natural properties on which they supervene, while the “non-naturalists” maintain that moral properties are sui generis and robustly irreducible. In this paper I present a novel version of realist ethical naturalism—a view that I call Emergentist Ethical Naturalism—that reveals this common way of understanding the distinction between naturalism and non-naturalism to be flawed by combining a commitment to ethical naturalism with a commitment to the sui generis and robustly irreducible nature of moral properties that typically defines non-naturalism. Then, after presenting the theory and addressing a few worries that one might have about it, I show how it offers some novel, emergence-based responses to the various supervenience challenges that plague moral realism and thereby gives the ethical naturalist a robustly non-reductive option for dealing with these challenges.

Keywords

Ethical emergentism Ethical naturalism Ethical non-naturalism Ethical supervenience Moral properties Moral realism 

Notes

Acknowledgements

I would like to thank Nancy Cartwright, the participants of the March 4, 2016 meeting of the Moral and Political Philosophy Seminar at UC San Diego, and especially an anonymous reviewer for their helpful comments on earlier versions of this paper. I would also like to thank David Brink, Cory Davia, Matthew Fulkerson, and Kerry McKenzie for feedback on an earlier document out of which the present paper grew.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of California San DiegoLa JollaUSA

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