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Summary

The ‘naturalistic fallacy’ has been variously identified with the claim that: (i) moral concepts can be defined in terms of non-moral, natural, or metaphysical concepts (the semantic form of the fallacy), (ii) moral properties can be identified with complex, non-moral, natural, or metaphysical properties (the ontological form), (iii) substantive moral conclusions (‘oughts’) can be derived from wholly non-moral premises (‘is-es’; the inferential or Humean form of the fallacy). The phrase was coined by Moore, who did not sharply distinguish between concepts and properties, and who focused on goodness, which he took to be fundamental and simple. Moore’s argument for thinking that the fallacy is a fallacy (i.e. false) is the open question argument. Replies to Moore include the claim that his argument begs the question, that it precludes any informative analysis (the paradox of analysis) and that it establishes only the indefinability of moral concepts, not the irreducibility of moral properties.   

Key works

Moore introduces the naturalistic fallacy in Moore 1903 (section 10), although he later expressed dissatisfaction which his formulation there, and tried to improve on it in a preface to a never-completed second edition (reprinted in Baldwin 1993). Frankena 1939 argues that Moore’s argument is question-begging; Snare 1975 responds. Jackson 1998 (chapter 6) and Smith 1994 (chapter 2) defend analytic naturalism against Moore, highlighting Moore’s paradox of analysis. Durrant 1970 is an early statement of a view which accepts the indefinability of moral concepts but not the irreducibility of moral properties – pursued at length in Boyd 1988. Darwall et al 1992 provides an overview of the influence of Moore’s arguments on metaethics and Baldwin 1990 (chapter 3) gives a detailed account how the fallacy fits in to Moore’s wider philosophical views. A forthcoming collection is Sinclair 2018.

Introductions Pigden 1991, Sturgeon 1998
Related categories

141 found
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1 — 50 / 141
  1. The Naturalness of the Naturalistic Fallacy and the Ethics of Nanotechnology.Mauro Dorato - 2013 - In The Role of Technology in Science: Philosophical Perspectives. Springer Verlag.
    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 (...)
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  2. Hedonic Naturalism.David Brax - manuscript
    Published (in Swedish) in the journal Filosofisk tidskrift as "Hedonistisk naturalism", 2011/3.
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  3. From “Is” to “Ought” in one easy step.Jude Arnout Durieux - manuscript
    The grounding of absolute morality requires surmounting some hurdles, including Euthyphro’s dilemma, Hume’s guillotine, and Moore’s naturalistic fallacy. This paper shows how those hurdles don’t prevent moral absolutes in a transcendent idealist setting. (Incomplete draft.).
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  4. Ecocentrism and Appeals to Nature's Goodness: Must they Be Fallacious?Antoine C. Dussault - manuscript
  5. Nietzsche's Answer to the Naturalistic Fallacy: Life as Condition, not Criterion, of Morality.Donovan Miyasaki - manuscript
    Nietzsche’s late writings present a value opposition of health and decadence based in his conception of organic life. While this appears to be a moral ideal that risks the naturalistic fallacy of directly deriving norms from facts, it instead describes a meta-ethical ideal: the necessary conditions for any kind of moral agency. Nietzsche’s ideal of health not only evades but also dissolves the naturalistic fallacy by suggesting that the specific content of morality is irrelevant. If health is measured by power (...)
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  6. The reliable route from nonmoral evidence to moral conclusions.Neil Sinhababu - forthcoming - Erkenntnis:1-21.
    We can infer moral conclusions from nonmoral evidence using a three-step procedure. First, we distinguish the processes generating belief so that their reliability in generating true belief is statistically predictable. Second, we assess the processes’ reliability, perhaps by observing how frequently they generate true nonmoral belief or logically inconsistent beliefs. Third, we adjust our credence in moral propositions in light of the truth ratios of the processes generating beliefs in them. This inferential route is noncircular, and progress along it is (...)
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  7. The Worth of Persons: The Foundation of Ethics.James Franklin - 2022 - New York: Encounter Books.
    The death of a person is a tragedy while the explosion of a lifeless galaxy is a mere firework. The moral difference is grounded in the nature of humans: humans have intrinsic worth, a worth that makes their fate really matter. This is the worth proposed as the foundation of ethics. Ethics in the usual sense of right and wrong actions, rights and virtues, and how to live a good life, is founded on something more basic that is not itself (...)
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  8. Neil Sinclair (ed.), The Naturalistic Fallacy. [REVIEW]Dan Kemp - 2022 - Journal of Moral Philosophy 19 (2):225-228.
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  9. The Normative Stance.Marcus Arvan - 2021 - Philosophical Forum 52 (1):79-89.
    The Duhem-Quine thesis famously holds that a single hypothesis cannot be confirmed or disconfirmed in isolation, but instead only in conjunction with other background hypotheses. This article argues that this has important and underappreciated implications for metaethics. Section 1 argues that if one begins metaethics firmly wedded to a naturalistic worldview—due (e.g.) to methodological/epistemic considerations—then normativity will appear to be reducible to a set of social-psycho-semantic behaviors that I call the ‘normative stance.’ Contra Hume and Bedke (2012), I argue that (...)
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  10. Evolutionary Psychology, Rape, and the Naturalistic Fallacy.Youjin Kong - 2021 - Journal of the Society of Philosophical Studies 134:65-93.
    Feminist critics of evolutionary psychology are often accused of committing the naturalistic fallacy, that is, of inferring certain normative conclusions from evolutionary psychology’s purely descriptive accounts. This article refutes the accusation of the naturalistic fallacy, by showing that evolutionary psychology’s accounts of human behavior are not purely descriptive, but rather grounded on biased value judgments. A paradigmatic example is Randy Thornhill and Craig Palmer’s well-known book A Natural History of Rape. I argue that at least three biased judgments are at (...)
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  11. Constructing a Moorean ‘Open Question’ Argument: The Real Thought Move and the Real Objective.Nicholas Shackel - 2021 - Grazer Philosophische Studien 98 (3):463-88.
    How Moore’s open question argument works, insofar as it does, remains a matter of controversy. My purpose here is to construct an open question argument based on a novel interpretation of how Moore’s argument might work. In order to sidestep exegetical questions, I do not claim here to be offering Moore’s own argument. Rather, I offer a reconstruction making use of important elements of Moore’s methodology and assumptions that could be reasonable within a Moorean viewpoint. The crucial role within the (...)
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  12. Peter Geach's Ethics.Katharina Nieswandt - 2020 - In Hähnel Martin (ed.), Aristotelian Naturalism: A Research Companion. Dordrecht: Springer. pp. 183-193.
    Geach is best known for his contributions to theoretical philosophy: Most of his more than one hundred papers and a dozen books are on logic, philosophy of language and metaphysics. But he also made significant contributions to ethics. Particularly influential were a series of short metaethics papers, which are small masterpieces, both in terms of philosophical content and style. In usually less than ten pages, Geach delivers sharp analyses and powerful objections against influential schools. His arguments are always so clear (...)
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  13. Einleitung.Falk Hamann & Peter Heuer - 2019 - In Falk Hamann & Peter Heuer (eds.), Die ontologischen Grundlagen der aristotelischen Ethik. Leipzig, Germany: pp. 9–17.
    Diese Einleitung skizziert verschiedene Problemfelder des Verhältnisses von Ethik und Ontologie bei Aristoteles und diskutiert überblicksartig entsprechende Lösungsansätze, die innerhalb des zeitgenössischen Neo-Aristotelismus entwickelt wurden.
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  14. Evolutionary Ethics.Michael Klenk - 2019 - Introduction to Philosophy: Ethics.
    This chapter first introduces naturalistic approaches to ethics more generally and distinguishes methodological ethical naturalism (the focus of this chapter), from metaphysical ethical naturalism. The second part then discusses evolutionary ethics as a specific variant of methodological ethical naturalism. After introducing the concepts of evolutionary theory that are relevant for evolutionary ethics, I will sketch the history of evolutionary ethics, which offers an interesting lesson about why it became a controversial topic, and then focus on four central questions about ethics (...)
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  15. The Naturalistic Fallacy and Theological Ethics.Christian B. Miller - 2019 - In Neil Sinclair (ed.), The Naturalistic Fallacy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 206-225.
    What views are the primary target of Moore’s fallacy and his open question argument? A common answer, I suspect, would be naturalistic approaches to morality. It is the naturalistic fallacy, after all. But in fact both his fallacy and his argument apply just as straightforwardly to supernatural approaches to morality as well. In this chapter, I focus specifically on how philosophers of religion have tried to grounds morality in God in ways that are clearly relevant to Moore’s project.
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  16. Epistemic relativism and the naturalistic fallacy.J. Adam Carter - 2018 - In Neil Sinclair (ed.), The Naturalistic Fallacy. Cambridge University Press.
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  17. The naturalistic fallacy : what it is, and what it isn't.Fred Feldman - 2018 - In Neil Sinclair (ed.), The Naturalistic Fallacy. Cambridge University Press.
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  18. The phenomenology of moral deliberation and the non-naturalistic fallacy.Terry Horgan & Mark Timmons - 2018 - In Neil Sinclair (ed.), The Naturalistic Fallacy. Cambridge University Press.
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  19. Naturalistic Fallacy.Benjamin McCraw - 2018 - In Rob Arp, Steven Barbone & Michael Bruce (eds.), Bad Arguments: 100 of the Most Important Fallacies in Western Philosophy. Malden, MA, USA: pp. 193-195.
    In this chapter, I define the naturalistic fallacy, as it originates in G.E. Moore's work. On Moore's view the fallacy occurs when one either confuses a natural property with a normative or moral property or when one tries to infer a normative or moral claim directly from a natural one. I then lay out some different variations of the fallacy. I then examine maneuvers that may appear to commit the fallacy, and I argue that they may not do so. Whether (...)
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  20. On Appeals to Nature and their Use in the Public Controversy over Genetically Modified Organisms.Andrei Moldovan - 2018 - Informal Logic 38 (3):409-437.
    In this paper I discuss appeals to nature, a particular kind of argument that has received little attention in argumentation theory. After a quick review of the existing literature, I focus on the use of such arguments in the public controversy over the acceptabil-ity of genetically-modified organisms in the food industry. Those who reject this biotechnology invoke its unnatural character. Such arguments have re-ceived attention in bioethics, where they have been analyzed by distinguishing different meanings that “nature” and “natural” might (...)
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  21. Should analytical descriptivists worry about the naturalistic fallacy?Susana Nuccetelli - 2018 - In Neil Sinclair (ed.), The Naturalistic Fallacy. Cambridge University Press.
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  22. No-ought-from-is, the naturalistic fallacy and the fact/value distinction: the history of a mistake.Charles Pigden - 2018 - In Neil Sinclair (ed.), The Naturalistic Fallacy. Cambridge University Press.
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  23. The context and origin of Moore's formulation of the naturalistic fallacy in Principia Ethica.Consuelo Preti - 2018 - In Neil Sinclair (ed.), The Naturalistic Fallacy. Cambridge University Press.
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  24. Normativity and the naturalistic fallacy.Connie S. Rosati - 2018 - In Neil Sinclair (ed.), The Naturalistic Fallacy. Cambridge University Press.
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  25. Evolution and the naturalistic fallacy.Michael Ruse - 2018 - In Neil Sinclair (ed.), The Naturalistic Fallacy. Cambridge University Press.
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  26. The Naturalistic Fallacy and the History of Metaethics.Neil Sinclair - 2018 - In The Naturalistic Fallacy. Cambridge University Press.
    This chapter -- the first in the edited collection "The Naturalistic Fallacy" (Cambridge University Press 2019) -- locates the naturalistic fallacy within the context of the other claims Moore defends in Principia Ethica. I explore the notions of “definition” and “analysis” as Moore understood them and set out in detail the multiple interpretations of the fallacy and open question argument. I then take a broad view of the influence of the fallacy on the Century of metaethics that came after Moore, (...)
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  27. The Naturalistic Fallacy.Neil Sinclair (ed.) - 2018 - New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.
    At the turn of the twentieth century, G.E. Moore contemptuously dismissed most previous 'ethical systems' for committing the 'Naturalistic Fallacy'. This fallacy – which has been variously understood, but has almost always been seen as something to avoid – was perhaps the greatest structuring force on subsequent ethical theorising. To a large extent, to understand the Fallacy is to understand contemporary ethics. This volume aims to provide that understanding. Its thematic chapters – written by a range of distinguished contributors – (...)
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  28. Introduction.Neil Sinclair - 2018 - In The Naturalistic Fallacy. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
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  29. Motivation, recommendation, non-cognitivism and the naturalistic fallacy.Mark van Roojen - 2018 - In Neil Sinclair (ed.), The Naturalistic Fallacy. Cambridge University Press.
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  30. Anscombe on the mesmeric force of ‘ought’ and a spurious kind of moral realism.Sergio Volodia Marcello Cremaschi - 2017 - Etica E Politica 19 (2):51-86.
    I discuss the second of the three theses advanced by Anscombe in ‘Modern Moral Philosophy’. The focus is the nature of entities to which – if Anscombe’s diagnosis is correct – ought and cognate modals are assumed by modern moral philosophers to refer. I reconstruct the alternative account offered by Anscombe of viable and justified ‘Aristotelian’ modals – as contrasted with mysterious and unjustified ‘Kantian’ modals; I discuss the nature and status of ‘Aristotelian necessity’ to which such legitimate modals refer (...)
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  31. Quel rapport entre science et justice? - La leçon de Léon Bourgeois.Simon-Pierre Chevarie-Cossette - 2016 - In Daoust Marc-Kevin (ed.), Capitalisme, propriété et solidarité. Les Cahiers D'Ithaque.
    Le solidarisme de Léon Bourgeois constitue une tentative convaincante de surmonter l’opposition traditionnelle entre libertés individuelles et justice sociale. Bourgeois tente de relever ce défi en faisant appel aux nouvelles découvertes scientifiques en sociologie comme en biologie. En bref, l’observation de la nature nous montrerait que les humains sont en rapport de solidarité les uns avec les autres. De ce fait, on pourrait tirer un devoir de solidarité que l’État serait à même d’imposer aux individus. Fonder une théorie politique sur (...)
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  32. Lei de Hume e falácia naturalista.Ricardo Tavares Da Silva - 2016 - Anatomia Do Crime 4:187-204.
  33. Naturalismo Moral e Normatividade: Uma investigação sobre as origens e os limites da naturalização do fenômeno moral.Luca Nogueira Igansi - 2016 - Saarbrücken, Germany: Novas Edições Acadêmicas.
    O autor propõe uma investigação do naturalismo moral contemporâneo a partir das variadas formulações do argumento conhecido como a falácia naturalista, assim como do contraponto de algumas teorias não-naturalistas como as de G. E. Moore e John Rawls. A partir da análise destas formulações do argumento no contexto formal da metaética contemporânea, busca aferir a validade da falácia naturalista no contexto atual, bem como de seus limites na aplicação contra o naturalismo moral. O naturalismo moral é apresentado, então, numa versão (...)
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  34. An Assumption of Extreme Significance: Moore, Ross and Spencer on Ethics and Evolution.Hallvard Lillehammer - 2016 - In Uri D. Leibowitz & Neil Sinclair (eds.), Explanation in Ethics and Mathematics: Debunking and Dispensability. Oxford University Press.
    In recent years there has been a growing interest among mainstream Anglophone moral philosophers in the empirical study of human morality, including its evolution and historical development. This chapter compares these developments with an earlier point of contact between moral philosophy and the moral sciences in the early decades of the Twentieth century, as manifested in some of the less frequently discussed arguments of G. E. Moore and W. D. Ross. It is argued that a critical appreciation of Moore and (...)
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  35. Pūrva Mīmāṃsā: Non-Natural, Moral Realism (Ethics-1, M14).Ranganathan Shyam - 2016 - In A. Raghuramaraju (ed.), Philosophy, E-PG Pathshala. Delhi: India, Department of Higher Education (NMEICT).
    In this module I set out the Moral Non-Naturalism of Pūrva Mīmāṃsā as a version of Deontology that defines duty in terms of its beneficent properties. It elucidates the scheme of right living according to ordinance or command. Whereas natural accounts of moral terms suffer from circularity (by merely re-naming of a natural property with a moral term, which then serves to justify its moral appraisal), proponents of Mīmāṃsā defend their position by offering the Vedas as constituting independent evidence about (...)
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  36. The Naturalistic Fallacy in Ethical Discourse on the Social Determinants of Health.Daniel Goldberg - 2015 - American Journal of Bioethics 15 (3):58-60.
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  37. Biologicization of Ethics: Beyond Naturalistic Fallacy and Counter-Naturalistic Fallacy.Jihan Lyou - 2015 - Journal of Ethics: The Korean Association of Ethics 1 (103):1-30.
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  38. Getting Ahead of One’s Self?: The Common Culture of Immunology and Philosophy.Warwick Anderson - 2014 - Isis 105 (3):606-616.
    During the past thirty years, immunological metaphors, motifs, and models have come to shape much social theory and philosophy. Immunology, so it seems, often has served to naturalize claims about self, identity, and sovereignty—perhaps most prominently in Jacques Derrida’s later studies. Yet the immunological science that functions as “nature” in these social and philosophical arguments is derived from interwar and Cold War social theory and philosophy. Theoretical immunologists and social theorists knowingly participated in a common culture. Thus the “naturalistic fallacy” (...)
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  39. The Naturalistic Fallacy Is Modern.Lorraine Daston - 2014 - Isis 105 (3):579-587.
    The naturalistic fallacy appears to be ubiquitous and irresistible. The avant-garde and the rearguard, the devout and the secular, the learned elite and the lay public all seem to want to enlist nature on their side, everywhere and always. Yet a closer look at the history of the term “naturalistic fallacy” and its associated arguments suggests that this way of understanding appeals to nature’s authority in human affairs is of relatively modern origin. To apply this category cross-historically masks considerable variability (...)
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  40. A Falácia Naturalista na Metaética Contemporânea: Usos e Equívocos.L. N. Igansi - 2014 - Fundamento 1 (8):11-31.
    The naturalistic fallacy according to Moore and its relation to Hume will be analyzed for an exposition both clear and updated in contemporary formal logics, which will denounce its limited scope in current metaethics. I’ll identify the origins of the expression naturalistic fallacy in Moore and atempt to refne its meaning and use, contrasting its relationship to the open-question argument and Hume’s Law. Its application is identifed in four aspects: invalidly as the openquestion argument for not establishing a metaphysical connection (...)
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  41. Normatividade e Valor no Naturalismo Moral.Luca Nogueira Igansi - 2014 - Dissertation,
    Este trabalho investiga o naturalismo moral contemporâneo a partir das variadas formulações do argumento conhecido como a falácia naturalista, assim como do contraponto de algumas teorias não-naturalistas, em especial a de G. E. Moore. Parto da análise destas formulações do argumento no contexto formal da metaética contemporânea, buscando aferir a validade da falácia naturalista no contexto atual, bem como de seus limites na aplicação contra o naturalismo moral. Apresento então o naturalismo moral numa versão humeana, que sugere uma abordagem descritivista (...)
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  42. A Field Study Of Con Games.Erika Milam - 2014 - Isis 105 (3):596-605.
    In 1978, the evolutionary biologist Robert Trivers and Huey P. Newton, cofounder of the Black Panthers, began a collaboration exploring the evolution of self-deception. Together they published a brief paper that used their ideas about the naturalistic basis of deceit and self-deception to explain the crash of Air Florida Flight 90 in Washington, D.C. Given the continued power of the naturalistic fallacy in the modern life sciences, historical attention typically focuses on highly visible controversies with great popular traction. This essay (...)
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  43. Introduction (FOCUS: THE PECULIAR PERSISTENCE OF THE NATURALISTIC FALLACY).Erika Lorraine Milam - 2014 - Isis 105 (3):564-568.
    Although “naturalistic fallacy” is a term coined in the twentieth century, scholars have long voiced myriad anxieties over the mechanisms by which their contemporaries have derived moral, social, and political lessons from natural phenomena—often as gambits for advancing their own alternative explanations. The essays in this Focus section explore five episodes in the history of such concerns with naturalistic reasoning in order to shed new light on the persistence of naturalism itself.
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  44. From Ought to Is: Physics and the Naturalistic Fallacy.Matthew Stanley - 2014 - Isis 105 (3):588-595.
    In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries there were many attempts to justify political and social systems on the basis of physics and astronomy. By the early twentieth century such moves increasingly also integrated the life and social sciences. The physical sciences gradually became less appealing as a sole source for sociopolitical thought. The details of this transition help explain the contemporary reluctance to capitalize on an ostensibly rich opportunity for naturalistic social reasoning: the anthropic principle in cosmology, which deals with (...)
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  45. St. Thomas and the Naturalistic Fallacy.Michael Augros & Christopher Oleson - 2013 - The National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly 13 (4):637-661.
    Certain scholars wish to acquit St. Thomas Aquinas of the “illicit inference from facts to norms” commonly referred to as the naturalistic fallacy. Seeing in certain passages his awareness of illegitimate ways to derive morality from natural ends, many have come to read Aquinas as agreeing with the view that knowledge of the moral order does not derive from knowledge of human nature and of the natural ends of its parts and powers. This paper aims to expose the deficiencies of (...)
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  46. Analitik Etiğin Babası Kimdi? George Edward Moore’un DNA Testi (translation by Hatice Altıntaş).Sergio Volodia Marcello Cremaschi - 2013 - Felsefi Düsün 1 (1):5-31.
    I reconstruct the background of ideas, concerns and intentions out of which Moore’s early essays, the preliminary version, and then the final version of Principia Ethica originated. I stress the role of religious concerns, as well as that of the Idealist legacy. I argue that PE is more a patchwork of rather diverging contributions than a unitary work, not to say the paradigm of a new school in Ethics. I add a comparison with Rashdall’s almost contemporary ethical work, suggesting that (...)
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  47. Can Kitcher avoid the naturalistic fallacy?Sinion Derpmann, Dominik Düber, Tim Rojek & Konstantin Schnieder - 2013 - In Marie Kaiser & Ansgar Seide (eds.), Philip Kitcher – Pragmatic Naturalism. Ontos. pp. 61.
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  48. L’écocentrisme et ses appels normatifs à la nature : sont-ils nécessairement fallacieux ?Antoine C. Dussault - 2013 - In É Litalien (ed.), Peut-on tirer une éthique de l'étude de la nature ? Les Cahiers d'Ithaque. pp. 43-76.
  49. Fallacia deontica. From "ought" to "is".Federico L. G. Faroldi - 2012 - Rivista Internazionale di Filosofia Del Diritto 89 (3):413–418.
  50. Is the Naturalistic Fallacy Dead (and If So, Ought It Be?).Oren Harman - 2012 - Journal of the History of Biology 45 (3):557 - 572.
    Much of modern moral philosophy argued that there are is's in this world, and there are oughts, but that the two are entirely independent of one another. What this meant was that morality had nothing to do with man's biological nature, and could not be derived from it. Any such attempt was considered to be a categorical mistake, and plain foolish. Most philosophers still believe this, but a growing group of neonaturalist thinkers are now challenging their assumptions. Here I consider (...)
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