The insufficience of supervenient explanations of moral actions: Really taking Darwin and the naturalistic fallacy seriously [Book Review]

Biology and Philosophy 6 (4):439-445 (1991)
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In a recent paper in this journal (Rottschaefer and Martinsen 1990) we have proposed a view of Darwinian evolutionary metaethics that we believe improves upon Michael Ruse's (e.g., Ruse 1986) proposals by claiming that there are evolutionary based objective moral values and that a Darwinian naturalistic account of the moral good in terms of human fitness can be given that avoids the naturalistic fallacy in both its definitional and derivational forms while providing genuine, even if limited, justifications for substantive ethical claims. Jonathan Barrett (this issue) has objected to our proposal contending that we cannot hold for the reality of supervenient moral properties without either falling foul of the naturalistic fallacy or suffering the consequences of postulating inexplicable moral properties. In reply, we show that Barrett's explicit arguments that we commit either the definitional or derivational form of the naturalistic fallacy fail and that his naturalistic intuitions that supervenience explanations of moral properties by nonmoral properties force us into what we call the explanatory form of the naturalistic fallacy also fail. Positively, his objections help us to clarify the nature of the naturalistic fallacy within an evolutionary based naturalistic ethics and to point out the proper role of both supervenience explanations and moral explanations in such an ethics.



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William A. Rottschaefer
Boston University (PhD)

References found in this work

The Structure of Science.Ernest Nagel - 1961 - Les Etudes Philosophiques 17 (2):275-275.
Moral Realism and the Foundations of Ethics.David Owen Brink - 1989 - New York: Cambridge University Press.
Four Decades of Scientific Explanation.Wesley C. Salmon & Anne Fagot-Largeault - 1989 - History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 16 (2):355.

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