Naturalism in Metaethics

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This chapter offers an introduction to naturalist views in contemporary metaethics. Such views attempt to find a place for normative properties (such as goodness and rightness) in the concrete physical world as it is understood by both science and common sense. The chapter begins by introducing simple naturalist conceptual analyses of normative terms. It then explains how these analyses were rejected in the beginning of the 20th Century due to G.E. Moore’s influential Open Question Argument. After this, the chapter considers what good general reasons there are for defending naturalism in metaethics. The bulk of the chapter will then survey new semantic and metaphysical forms of naturalism which in different ways attempt to address Moore’s objection to naturalism. These more recent versions of naturalism—using new resources from philosophy of language, philosophy of mind, metaphysics, philosophy of science and epistemology—attempt to explain why the Open Question Argument fails.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Blackwell Companion to Naturalism
EditorsKelly James Clark
ISBN (Electronic)9781118657775
ISBN (Print)9781118657607
Publication statusPublished - 5 Feb 2016


  • Metaethics
  • Naturalism
  • conceptual analysis
  • Cornell realism
  • moral explanations
  • network analysis
  • expressivism
  • open question argument
  • metaphysical parsimony
  • reduction


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