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Jessica Isserow

Abstract

Naturalist moral realists seem to have landed themselves a raw metaethical deal. Insofar as they identify moral properties in something external to human agents, they struggle to account for the deep practical hold that moral considerations have upon us, and stand accused of failing to take morality seriously as a normative phenomenon. And insofar as their method of identifying which natural properties are the moral ones is fairly permissive, they seem to over-generate admissible moralities, classifying as permissible a range of behaviours that we regard as morally perverse. In this paper, I argue that naturalist moral realists can make progress in addressing both concerns by drawing upon a variety of empirical resources. The former problem is mitigated by paying closer attention to deep-rooted features of human sociality, and by focusing upon the ways in which moral norms themselves build upon affective response. The force of the latter challenge is diminished once we appreciate that the naturalist can distinguish good moral norms from dreadful ones on principled grounds. None of this entails that the naturalist moral realist is home and dry. However, my arguments do suggest that her opponents strongly underestimate the resources at her disposal.

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