Non-naturalist realists are committed to the belief, famously voiced by Parfit, that if there are no non-natural facts then nothing matters. But it is morally objectionable to conditionalise all our moral commitments on the question of whether there are non-natural facts. Non-natural facts are causally inefficacious, and so make no difference to the world of our experience. And to be a realist about such facts is to hold that they are mind-independent. It is compatible with our experiences that there are no non-natural facts, or that they are very different from what we think. As Nagel says, realism makes scepticism intelligible. So the non-naturalist must hold that you might be wrong that your partner (for example) matters, even if you are correct about every natural, causal fact about your history and relationship. But to hold that conditional attitude to your partner would be a moral betrayal. So believing non-naturalist realism involves doing something immoral.
KeywordsEthics Metaethics Moral realism Non-naturalism Non-naturalist realism Moral nihilism
I would like to thank Philip Kitcher, Justin Clarke-Doane, Christopher Peacocke, Simon Blackburn, Sharon Street, Robbie Kubala, Max Barkhausen, Christian Coons, Pekka Väyrynen, Shamik Dasgupta, Matt Bedke, Stephen Findlay, Aaron Zimmerman and audiences at Columbia University, Bowling Green State University, Temple University, University College London, McGill University, the University of Leeds, and the 2018 American Philosophical Association, The University of Edinburgh, Pacific Division for their helpful comments.
- Bedke, M. (forthcoming). A dilemma for non-naturalists: Irrationality or immorality? Philosophical Studies. Google Scholar
- Blackburn, S. (1993). Errors and the phenomenology of value. In Essays in quasi-realism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Blackburn, S. (1996). Response to Dworkin, BEARS symposium archive, posted 11/11/96. Accessible at: http://www.brown.edu/Departments/Philosophy/bears/9611blac.html.
- Blackburn, S. (2010) Must we weep for sentimentalism? In Practical tortoise raising. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Camus, A. (1955/1942). The Myth of Sisyphus. In The Myth of Sisyphus and other essays, tr Justin O’Brien. New York: Alfred A Knopf.Google Scholar
- Clarke-Doane, J. (2016). Debunking and dispensability. In S. Neil & L. Uri (Eds.), Explanation in ethics and mathematics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Clarke-Doane, J. (forthcoming). Metaphysical possibility and absolute possibility. Synthese Google Scholar
- Field, H. (1989). Realism, mathematics, and modality. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.Google Scholar
- Fine, K. (2002). The varieties of necessity. In T. S. Gendler & J. Hawthorne (Eds.), Conceivability and Possibility. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- James, W. (1956). The moral philosopher and the moral life. In The will to believe. New York: Dover.Google Scholar
- Lewis, D. (2005). Quasi-realism is fictionalism. In M. E. Kalderon (Ed.), Fictionalism in metaphysics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Nagel, T. (1986). The view from nowhere. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Nowell-Smith, P. H. (1954). Ethics. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books.Google Scholar
- Parfit, D. (2011). On what matters, Volumes I & II. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Railton, P. (1984). Alienation, consequentialism, and the demands of morality. Philosophy and Public Affairs, 13(2), 134–171.Google Scholar
- Rosati, C. S. (2016). Moral motivation. In N. Z. Edward (Ed.), The stanford encyclopedia of philosophy (Winter 2016 Edition). https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2016/entries/moral-motivation/
- Rosen, G. (MS). What is normative necessity? Google Scholar
- Väyrynen, P. (2018). Normative commitments in metanormative theory. In J. Suikkanen & A. Kauppinen (Eds.), Methodology and moral philosophy. Routledge studies in ethics and moral theory. Routledge (forthcoming)Google Scholar
- Williams, W. (1973). A critique of utilitarianism. In Utilitarianism for and against Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.Google Scholar
- Williams, B. (2006). Philosophy as a humanistic discipline. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar