Non-Naturalism and Reference

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Metaethical realists disagree about the nature of normative properties. The naturalists think that they are ordinary natural properties: causally efficacious, a posteriori knowable, and usable in the best explanations of natural and social sciences. The non-naturalist realists, in contrast, argue that they are sui generis: causally inert, a priori knowable, and not a part of the subject matter of sciences. It has been assumed so far that the naturalists can explain causally how the normative predicates manage to refer to normative properties, whereas the non-naturalists will be unable to provide equally satisfactory metasemantic explanations. This article first describes how the previous non-naturalist accounts of reference fail to tell us how the normative predicates could have come to refer to the non-natural properties rather than to the natural ones. It will then use the so-called qua-problem to show how the causal theories of reference of the naturalists also fail to fix the reference of normative predicates to unique natural properties. Finally, I will suggest that, in the same way as the naturalists need to rely on the non-causal mechanism of reference magnetism to solve the previous problem, the non-naturalists too can rely on the very same idea to respond to the pressing metasemantic challenges which they face concerning reference.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Ethics & Social Philosophy
Publication statusPublished - 22 Feb 2017


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