The Naturalisms in Ethics conference will be running at the University of Auckland from 14-15 July and will feature this blog’s own Matthew Flannagan.
‘Naturalism’ is a multiply ambiguous term—hence the title Naturalisms in Ethics— but it is related to a range of questions concerning the relationship of morality to science, evolution, biology, religion, and natural properties (whatever those are). Many otherwise disparate moral theories have been labeled as ethical naturalisms, including virtue ethics (both neo-Aristotelian and neo-Humean), moral functionalism, Cornell realism, and natural law theories. Some potential paper topics include the following (but the list is hardly exhaustive):
- What are the different types of ethical naturalism?
- Why should we endorse/reject ethical naturalism or some specific version thereof?
- What can science or evolution tell us about morality, moral psychology, or the rationality of moral judgments?
- Are naturalistic accounts of morality better off than theistic ones?
- Rosalind Hursthouse (University of Auckland)
- Stephen Finlay (University of Southern California)
- John Hare (Yale Divinity; Seelye Charitable Trust Distinguished Fellow
- Mark Murphy (Georgetown University; Auckland University Distinguished Visitor)
- Glen Pettigrove (University of Auckland)
- Charles Pigden (University of Otago)
- Neil Sinhababu (National University of Singapore)
- Christine Swanton (University of Auckland)
- Erik Wielenberg (DePauw University)
Matt’s paper, “Is Ethical Naturalism more Plausible than Supernaturalism? A Reply to Walter Sinnott-Armstrong” will be chaired by Erik Wielenberg of DePauw University. Matt’s abstract is below:
Abstract for: “Is Ethical Naturalism More Plausible Than Supernaturalism? A Reply to Walter Sinnott-Armstrong”
In several debates and addresses, William Lane Craig has defended the conditional:
1. If God exists then a divine command theory of moral obligation is a plausible account of the nature of moral obligation.
In support of 1, Craig has appropriated the divine command theory of Robert Adams. He has identified the property of being morally obligated to do X with the property of being commanded by God to do X.
Recently, Walter Sinnott-Armstrong has contended Craig’s conditional is “incredible”; he argues that a particular form of ethical naturalism is far more plausible than a divine command theory. Armstrong contends that wrongness is (identical with) the natural property of causing harm to other people without reason. This theory accounts for the objectivity of moral obligations in a more economical manner than a divine command theory.
In this paper I criticise Armstrong’s claim. I argue Armstrong’s naturalism is not more economical neither is it more objective than a divine command theory. Moreover, I argue that Armstrong fails to establish that his version of ethical naturalism can explain the other features of moral obligations that Robert Adams and others have appealed to, such as, the social nature of moral obligation, that certain actions which do not harm people appear intuitively wrong and the fact that moral obligations provide an overriding or decisive reason for acting.