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Title: Being human : fine-tuning moral naturalism
Author: Campbell, Michael
Awarding Body: King's College London (University of London)
Current Institution: King's College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2012
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This thesis addresses the question of whether morality needs to be grounded in theory of human nature. I argue that it does not. Two pressures incline us towards the view that morality must be grounded in such a theory. The first of these is the thought that the absence of belief in a divine law giver creates special problems for the putative authority of moral considerations. If we are to avoid moral scepticism, so this line of thought goes, we must show how moral requirements serve or express our natural purposes. The second pressure is the observation that moral codes vary based on contexts (environmental and cultural) in ways that are too uniform to be accidental. An ethical theory is naturalistic if it denies that morality depends on the existence of God, and accommodates the intuition that morality is necessarily connected to human ends. I describe these pressures, focussing on an example of an individual (Mary) who declares themselves morally incapable of acting in a certain way. I explain why there is a problem in accommodating this modal appeal within the structures of practical deliberative inference. I then go on to describe what I take to be the distinctive features of moral experience. These include our confidence in moral requirements, their importance within our lives, their inescapability and our inability to resent them. These features are explained from the points of view of the agent and recipient, and in relation to both past and future circumstances. I then ask whether it is possible to accommodate a view of morality with these distinctive features within a non-sceptical naturalistic framework. I consider more carefully what moral naturalism requires. I distinguish between romantic and non-romantic approaches to the grounding of moral norms, and formal and material varieties of these approaches. I distinguish between romantic and non-romantic approaches to the grounding of moral norms, and formal and material varieties of these approaches. I suggest that formal non-romanticism (FNR) provides a way of grounding moral requirements which is naturalistic but which does not depend on the provision of a theory of human nature. On this view, moral necessities are sui generis and are grounded in an awareness of the presence of another human being. FNR is compared and contrasted to the dominant contemporary forms of moral naturalism. These are Kantianism, Humeanism and Aristotelianism. In general, these positions share a commitment to grounding moral claims on the deliverances of theory. Therefore I dub this family of views theoretical naturalism (TN). I explain what ’theory’ means in this context, and show how such views account for Mary’s appeal to moral necessity. Within the family of theoretical naturalism, Humeanism and Aristotelianism form a distinctive sub-set which I call rationalism. I compare and contrast their views, arguing that underlying their approaches is a shared presumption that an account of ethics is complete insofar as we have a full account of the panoply of human ends and the most effective means to their satisfaction. Having explained the various alternatives available, I show that FNR is superior to its rivals. I argue that TN in general, in virtue of its conception of the role of theory in morality, cannot accommodate the fineness of morally good deeds. Turning to the work of writers in the Wittgensteinian tradition I show how ethics is dependent on a sense of the human condition, rather than on a theory of human nature. In other words, to explain the fineness of fine deeds and the vileness of bad ones we need to aver to considerations about what it means for an individual to have been wronged, what pathos it has given our sense of life and what may come of it.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available