This paper will show the basic position of ethical naturalism, also discuss ways in which science can arguably, and enhance our understanding of morality. I will give descriptions and examples of ethical naturalism to support this passage, it will illustrate various ways science can enhance our understanding of morality as well.
Naturalism, sometimes also called definism, is a theory in meta-ethics that holds that ethical terms can be defined; the meaning of ethical sentences can be given in very non-ethical terms. Naturalism is the view that ethical sentences express propositions and that they can be reduced to non-ethical sentences. Non-reductive ethical naturalism holds that moral properties are not reducible to non-moral properties, but are supervenient upon those properties. Naturalistic ethics: a theory of moral behavior according to which ethics is an empirical science. Ethical statements are reduced to the natural sciences (physical or social), and ethical questions are answered wholly based on the findings of those sciences. Ethical naturalism take on several different forms, one of the bigger difficulties in the articulation of the theory is multifarious definitions on “nature”, “natural”, and “natural law.” Some examples of ethical naturalism are, ethical values are reducible to natural properties; a good action is an action in conformity with the proper function of a thing as in the Stoic’s notion of “activities which are consequential upon a thing’s nature.” Ethical values are a distinctive kind property not reducible to those studied by the physical sciences but possibly studied by the social sciences. In a sense, a nihilist can be thought of as one kind of ethical naturalist. Nihilism is the doctrine that there are no moral facts, no moral truths, and no moral knowledge. Moreover, nihilism, as the belief that life is insignificant and death is the end of life, is a doctrine that denies that traditional values, including moral truths, exist. Some nihilists hold that morality is merely a superstitious remnant of religion. Religious morality is fragile when related to science, it is a common idea for the religious, that morality would be pointless if the universe is simply going to die of heat death and that everything, along with us, will cease to exist. A salient philosophical objection to ethical naturalism is described by G.E. Moore as the naturalistic fallacy. He argues that the question of goodness can still be raised as to whether a natural property is good. What are proper functions of a person what might not actually be good for them. However, even if they were, they are not the same as, or the definition of, what is good. The first area where science can improve our morality is through simple scientific literacy. Our moral IQ can be informed simply through a broader scientific understanding. With our new understanding of genetics through science, we know more about the diseases of the mind such as bi-polar, manic depression, panic disorder, PTSD, and chemical imbalances we will no longer mistake someone’s odd behavior as being possessed. Science helps us understand morality better through the study of genetics, we now know more in the way of people. Therefore, we can say that moral progress is tied to scientific progress. As wellbeing is a universal goal for conscious beings, the scientifically informed view of morality in face of this kind of argument could be, we only experience the present, we can only influence the future from through the present, and so in this sense, the present is the only meaningful experience we can discuss. We can say that what “increases wellbeing is a scientific question, but that we should increase wellbeing isn’t. However, how do we come up with an idea of what is good? What is our basis for saying anything is good? What states lead us to conclude goodness? We cannot through the scientific process ask what is good, but in the sense of understanding the framework of basis for the concept of good, science is a required part. To look at morality in a scientific aspect, if we say life is good’ then living a good life means living healthy. A scientific inquiry, the methods of science can determine the kinds of diets, exercise regimes, and even health care policies that promote or lead to good health and the avoidance of physical suffering. On this basis, we may be able to say that certain diets or health care initiatives are objectively better or worse than others are. Therefore, we can say people have a moral obligation to be healthy. Using science (natural), we can also say that incest is morally wrong. Science has proven that when two closely related human beings procreate, it substantially increases the likelihood of two deleterious (“toxic”) recessive genes coming together and producing any of a large variety of conditions that interfere with health. Two people that procreate their differing genetic ancestries are extremely unlikely to carry the same deleterious genes. Many people take many different views on ethics and morality, a lot of discussion on ethical naturalism. With all these different views, science brings forth more and more information all the time and can arguably enhance our understanding of morality, and relationship between ethics and morality.
Ethics, Crime, and Criminal Justice. Second Edition, pg. 69, Authors: Christopher R. Williams, Bruce A. Arrigo
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