Certainly one may query the relevance of these inabilities. Statistical evidence suggests that in routine births one may be better off at home with a midwife than in a hospital with doctors and nurses. Being better off here is determined not only by the standard measures of success such as reduction in maternal and infant death rates and nasty post-natal complications, but also by the less common one of quality of birth experience.
Medical professionals armed with scientific credentials tend to take the failures of midwives to be more significant for an assessment of their competence than their successes. However, Churchland provides a stronger response to this dispute: the greater success of the expert in dealing with novel situations depends largely on her repertoire of prototypes and experience-sharpened judgment rather than the deployment of principles.
Indeed, Hubert and Stuart Dreyfus, arguing more from a phenomenological perspective than from an experimental one, suggest that rule followers may be the ones to worry about.
The fluid performance of the widely experienced expert who can see what a situation is and how to act with hardly any conscious analysis and comparison of alternatives is at the highest level. It contrasts with the bumbling performance of the novice applying instructions without benefit of recognized similarities to other situations in her experience, as well as with the 35 Loretta Heidgerken, Teaching in Schools of Nursing: Principles and Methods Philadelphia: Lippincott, , 8, Communitarianism, ed.
David M. So where do we find moral expertise, even rare, of the sort described by Churchland or the Dreyfus brothers? In the halls of the UN or Parliament? In the domestic, professional, or business sphere? Still, there may be wider and more detailed experience of similarities and differences dealing with individuals in the small rather than the large.
Witness the problems mentioned above with comparative cultural and political history. Further, relationships in such spheres can be structured, naturally or conventionally, so that the lines of responsibility permit significant freedom of choice for some members. This freedom allows them to make decisions on their own and to experiment without having first to justify their actions to large numbers of others.
They are less apt to have to defend themselves against charges of inconsistency with previous decisions or to have to get others to agree to terms of co-operation and procedures to be followed. Faced with those demands for justification, however, acting on and being able to justify oneself by appeal to rules and principles may be key. Catherine Wilson, Michael Stingl, Andy Clark, and Paul Churchland explore the role and nature of rules in moral cognition in their contributions.
In any case, what we may have to recognize is the contextual character of attributions of the epistemic worth of beliefs and decisions, a point emphasized by several of our authors. What sort of performance 37 P.
A parent whose way of making decisions concerning how to deal with his children resembled those of the statesman might be said to be a moral dummy, though in the UN chamber he might be heralded for his thoughtfulness and competence in human affairs. The search for systematic norms of epistemic evaluation, in morals or elsewhere, may seem seriously misguided.
The Natural and the Normative; Moral Know-how and Moral Discourse We invited the authors of the essays to follow to write on moral epistemology naturalized just as they saw fit. Not surprisingly, their essays cover a bewildering variety of themes and issues no less complex than the literature surveyed in this introduction. Nevertheless, the ten essays appear to divide themselves evenly around two central kinds of concern. The first concern is how to accommodate the normative within the natural. Can a naturalized moral epistemology hope to preserve the normative dimensions of morality, moral knowledge, and moral theory?
Though agreement exists among the authors in Part I that these dimensions can be preserved, they differ in their views about exactly what the normative dimensions are and how an epistemology that is naturalized can accommodate them. The second central concern is about the role and importance of moral discourse within a naturalized conception of morality and moral knowledge. At the one extreme is the view that the biological underpinning of morality explains all its relevant features; at the other is the view that principled moral discussion and linguistically expressible deliberation about moral choices are essential to and completely definitive of our human experience and understanding of morality.
The authors in Part II defend positions between the two extremes, focusing on the contrast between biologically grounded moral know-how and the cultural expression of morality in moral discourse. The objections, he explains, are especially important when understood in the context of naturalized moral epistemology, but can also be answered within that context. Why, given the way we think morally and given the truth conditions for moral judgments provided by naturalists, would our moral beliefs have any tendency to be true and our forms of moral reasoning have any tendency to yield true beliefs?
Margaret Urban Walker distinguishes between two approaches to naturalized moral epistemology. One prioritizes scientific knowledge as the source of our understanding of moral knowledge; the other places as much, if not more, significance in other forms of empirical knowledge, including moral knowledge concerning how the world may be made better for us and historical perspectives on our epistemic and cultural situation. That which warrants accepting norms and thinking them true, Louise Antony argues, is the success of practices governed by them.
Addressing the paradox that we need bias in order to find the truth, she defends a view of epistemic agency tailored to developments in cognitive science. In her view commitment to truth and rationality leads us not just to endorse judgments that can survive critical scrutiny and deliberation aimed at the truth. We need also to recognize and accommodate the need for ecologically valid heuristics embodying some of the shortcuts and biases to which we are naturally prone.
Likewise, she argues for a naturalized Kantian conception of moral agency in which commitment to a norm of impartiality that recognizes the equal moral worth of all human beings can accommodate the need for partiality and tell us when it should be tolerated and even encouraged. She takes up the problem of why moral facts would matter to an agent if moral natural- 25 Richmond Campbell and Bruce Hunter ism is true. One must see actions that we endorse in the context of generalizable, expected patterns of action, so that failing to endorse acting similarly in relevantly similar cases violates our self-conception.
Babbitt responds that this understanding of moral agency fails to explain how we sometimes come to unify our experience and attribute importance to it in ways that conflict with our more stable background beliefs and with the expectations derived from experience of evident personal and social regularities. This perspective allows us to acquire a full and adequate grasp of relevant truths concerning human needs and goals and thus to see how we can become better persons in a better world.
Finally, Lorraine Code like Walker sees a flaw in the tendency of naturalized epistemology toward scientism. Still, she sees a virtue in its self-reflexive tendency to draw attention to its own origins and seeks a naturalism devoid of scientism. For Code all factual claims have normative dimensions, but this feature need not exempt them from having objective import.
Using examples from medicine, she joins Antony in framing the issue of objectivity in ecological terms. In Part II, Catherine Wilson provides an impressive tour of relevant literature in evolutionary biology, anthropology, history, and psychology to advance what might fairly be described as a sophisticated error theory of morality. Her aim is to expose the tension that she finds between our shared, biologically based, primitive proto-moral behavioural and affective dispositions, and the varying ideational suprastructure that we express culturally in our moral discourse, institutions, and behaviour.
The human mind is disposed to generate many formulas of obligation, but moral formulas differ from others, such as taboos, in that they seek to limit the personal advantage one individual or social entity has over others by dint of greater strength, intelligence, beauty, charisma, or other advantageous features. She asks where one should one place oneself for various dimensions of human activity on a gradient from a hypermoral periphery of highly compensatory 26 Introduction principles, e. Stingl seeks to defend evolutionary ethics against such error theory, especially as it has been formulated by Michael Ruse and others who see a deep mismatch between claims to moral objectivity often made by philosophers and the basis for our moral feelings and dispositions deriving ultimately from our biological evolution.
Stingl, like Wilson, follows David Braybrooke in construing moral rules as having an origin in systems of intentional blocking operations.
Canadian Journal of Philosophy, Volume 40, Number 4, December 2010
Stingl, however, diverges from Wilson in arguing that the social behaviour of chimps makes it plausible to think chimps not only perceive harms as unjustified and experience motivational oughts arising from empathy, but non-propositionally represent rules with moral content that have motivational force for them. However, he argues that Churchland does not appreciate fully the significance of moral discourse for locating what is distinctively moral in human morality or for the role it plays in making moral progress possible.
First, moral reasoning, decision-making, and problem-solving are quintessentially a communal and collaborative affair for which linguistically formulated moral principles, however summary, are essential tools in the co-operative exploration of moral space. Second, moral labels and summary principles are the special tool by which morally salient patterns are brought into focus for biological, pattern-based engines of reason and stay there, rather than being swamped by superficial regularities.
In reply, Churchland emphasizes the similarities between the social skills of various animals whose social cognition is entirely non-discursive and the skills of us humans. At the same time, it is in these off-loaded institutional structures and 27 Richmond Campbell and Bruce Hunter the increased collective success at the negotiation of increasingly complex social spaces they offer us that Churchland finds our moral progress rather than in the character of the average person.
Clark finishes with two reservations. For him, discursive practices of reasongiving and public moral discussion are part of what constitute our practices as genuinely moral in the first instance, just as only the activity of numeral-enhanced humans is genuinely mathematical, and moral progress must consist in enhancing moral exchange and debate. For example, a utilitarian naturalist might propose that wrongness is the property an action could have of being such as to undermine overall happiness, where happiness is taken to be a psychological property.
For my purposes in this paper, I shall assume that natural properties are such that our knowledge of them is fundamentally empirical, grounded in observation. I am grateful for the suggestions and comments I received on these occasions. It implies that moral knowledge is fundamentally empirical. It is committed to an empiricist moral epistemology.
This paper springs from the fact that certain unsurprising commonsense first-personal observations about our moral thinking can appear to undermine ethical naturalism by undermining the psychological plausibility of the idea that our moral knowledge is empirical. Moore says, in Principia, sec. It might fail to make good on the claim that moral propositions are knowable, or that they are knowable a posteriori; it might propose an implausible analysis of moral propositions.
If, for example, the concept of murder is the concept of a wrongful killing, a naturalist would not deny that we can know a priori that murder is wrong. But a naturalist denies that there is synthetic a priori moral knowledge. A naturalist would deny that we can know a priori that, say, killing the innocent is wrong. Consider, for example, the proposition that friendship is good. Moore therefore counts as a non-naturalist. He holds that we can know a priori that friendship is good.
See Moore, Principia Ethica, secs. He also holds that the proposition that friendship is good is synthetic. Moore, Principia Ethica, sec. I shall discuss four challenges of this kind. These challenges might be thought to support a kind of non-naturalistic intuitionism in moral epistemology, or perhaps to support a kind of apriorism.
I shall argue that the observations that fuel the challenges are actually compatible with ethical naturalism. Some naturalists might be prepared to adopt the quite different strategy of disregarding objections of the kinds I will discuss on the basis of the metaphysical attractiveness of ethical naturalism. But such a strategy is not compatible with a naturalized approach to epistemology. Scientific prioritism appears also to block other kinds of responses to the objections, such as postulating a special faculty by which we acquire moral knowledge, or inferring how the psychology must work on the basis of metaphysical arguments.
As we will see, naturalized epistemology gives priority to scientific psychology rather than to commonsense psychological observations of the kinds that fuel the objections. It might also be compatible with naturalized epistemology to reject the objections on grounds of theoretical simplicity and explanatory utility. The important point, however, is that naturalized epistemology restricts the strategies that can be used by ethical naturalists in responding to the epistemological objections. To be sure, as we will see, ethical naturalism is not logically committed to the doctrines of naturalized epistemology.
I nevertheless find it difficult to see how a theoretical preference for ethical naturalism could be explained or justified in a way that would not equally well ground or justify a theoretical preference for at least the central doctrines of naturalized epistemology. There are two projects for the paper. The most important is to respond to the intuitive epistemological objections to ethical naturalism. The second is to explain the relation between ethical naturalism 33 David Copp and naturalized epistemology.
Naturalized epistemology puts an important constraint on meta-ethical theory, namely, that its semantics and metaphysics must be integrated with a psychologically plausible moral epistemology. The four objections to ethical naturalism that I will discuss are grounded in an application of this constraint.
On a naturalized approach to epistemology, an ethical naturalist cannot deal adequately with the objections without developing a moral epistemology that is both naturalistic, in that it shows moral knowledge to be fundamentally empirical, and compatible with a psychology of moral belief formation and moral reasoning that is plausible by the standards of psychology and the other sciences. I sketch such an epistemology in this paper. I will begin by presenting the objections in detail.
Four Epistemological Challenges to Ethical Naturalism According to the first objection, we often seem to arrive at our moral views as a result of reflection, thought, or reasoning, rather than as a straightforward result of empirical observation or theorizing, as naturalism would seem to suggest. Observation gives us information that is morally relevant. But we can be morally perplexed, say, about euthanasia, even if we are clear that no further observation will help us to decide what to think. In such cases, reflection is called for rather than empirical theorizing about the world.
Naturalism owes us an account of the nature and epistemic status of the relevant kind of reasoning or reflection and of how it gives us access to the empirical truths that it identifies with moral truths. It needs to explain how moral reasoning of this kind can give rise to knowledge if, as naturalism maintains, the basic moral facts can only be known empirically or through observation.
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New Readings in Moral Epistemology, ed. For instance, once we determine that an act is, say, a piece of deliberate cruelty, such as an instance of torturing just for fun, it would be appropriate for us to conclude straightaway that the act is wrong. Yet the inference to the wrongness of the action clearly is not an inference to the best explanation of the fact that the act is an instance of torturing just for fun.
And it would be misleading to describe the fact that the act is an instance of torturing just for fun as evidence that the act is wrong. Its support for the wrongness of the act is rather stronger than and different from mere evidence of wrongness. Naturalism owes us an account of the inferences we make in such cases. To see the problem with this suggestion, consider a variation on a well-known example that was introduced by Gilbert Harman. Her failure might be explained by a fault in her perceptual apparatus, or perhaps by a lack of knowledge of cats.
Perhaps she does not recognize that the animal being lit on fire is a cat. This is no evidence at all of a fault in her perceptual faculties, nor is it good evidence that she is lacking some propositional knowledge that she need only acquire to 4 An argument that assumptions about moral facts are irrelevant to explaining any observations is found in chapter one of Gilbert Harman, Morality New York: Oxford University Press, It is much better evidence of a fault in her moral sensitivity.
Naturalism owes us an explanation of such cases and of the nature and epistemic role of moral sensitivity. Finally, a naturalistic theory will likely be embarrassed if it proposes informative naturalistic accounts of the moral properties. We might have no inkling of what the proposed explanans is. And it seems likely that, in attempting to decide what to believe in a case where we are morally perplexed, we will not investigate whether the naturalistic explanans obtains, but will rather engage in a more standard kind of moral reflection.
For instance, we might be morally perplexed about euthanasia. A proposed naturalistic account of the proposition that, say, euthanasia is wrong, would be a general proposition about euthanasia that we could state in purely naturalistic terms. It might be the proposition that euthanasia undermines the general happiness; or the proposition that a social rule against euthanasia would best serve the needs of our society, such as its need for peaceful social interaction; or the proposition that a rule that permitted euthanasia would be rejected by people who aimed to find principles for the general regulation of behavior that others with the same goal would not reject.
We would instead engage in ordinary moral reasoning of a familiar kind. We might express these points 6 In this sentence I allude to three naturalistic proposals: a form of analytic consequentialism, the view I proposed in my recent book, and a close relative of the view T. Scanlon proposed in his recent book. Scanlon does not intend to propose a form of ethical naturalism.
Naturalistic theories need to explain this. The four challenges form a cluster. There are cases in which we reach moral views as a result of reasoning or reflection. Naturalism owes us an account of what is going on. There are cases in which we infer a moral conclusion from an observation, but the inference does not seem to be inductive in nature. Naturalism owes us an account of what is going on in these cases. There are cases in which we come to have moral views immediately as a result of observation, but in these cases it seems it would be misleading to describe us as observing the truth of the moral claim.
And, finally, it seems not to be the case that we base our moral beliefs on knowledge of the complex empirical facts that a reductive naturalism would cite as constituting the truth conditions of these beliefs. In short, naturalistic meta-ethics does not seem to cohere with a plausible moral epistemology, given commonsense observations about moral belief and moral reasoning.
There is no need to accept naturalized epistemology to appreciate the force of these four challenges. But if we accept a naturalized epistemology, we are committed to certain restrictions on acceptable responses. Most important, we must concede that the philosophical soundness of our response is hostage to its psychological plausibility.
In the next section of the paper, I address the basis of this idea in naturalized epistemology. This section is optional for readers who are primarily interested in my responses to the four challenges. What is Naturalized Epistemology? It is to be expected, then, that my understanding of naturalized epistemology is different from that of many other philosophers. Fortunately this does not matter for my limited purposes. For my purposes, moreover, a brief discussion of naturalized epistemology will suffice. Epistemology, or something like it, simply falls into place as a chapter of psychology and hence of natural science.
It studies a natural phenomenon, viz. Perhaps it will be objected that normative epistemological issues, properly understood, are psychological. Note: The thesis that all normative properties are 38 Four Epistemological Challenges to Ethical Naturalism Cartesianism and psychologism. I shall take this revised conception of naturalized epistemology as my starting point.
Suppose that we reject skepticism about the external world. In so doing, we take it to be possible for ourselves, as we actually are constituted, to have knowledge about the world around us. This idea commits us to allowing that the psychological processes by which we come to have beliefs about the external world could underwrite knowledge. It commits us, that is, to placing certain psychological constraints on our philosophical account of what is necessary in order for a belief to count as knowledge. If we hold that it is necessary for us to stand in a certain relation to the world in order to have knowledge of it, or if we hold that it is necessary for us to go through a certain process of justification in order to have knowledge, then we are committed to the possibility of our actually going through this process or standing in this relation to the world, given how we actually are constituted.
We are committed to constraining our philosophical epistemology by what is psychologically possible for beings like us. If we take ourselves actually to have knowledge of the world around us, then we are committed to a stronger thesis. For if we take ourselves to know that there are oak trees and stars, for example, we are committed to thinking that the actual psychological processes by which we come to believe such things are processes that yield knowledge, at least in some cases.
First, we do have knowledge of the world around us. In more recent work, Quine appears to accept that epistemology is a normative discipline. See W. Perhaps most of us learn that there are oak trees and stars in the course of learning the language. We learn that the Big Dipper points to the North Star in early star gazing, at least if we live in the Northern Hemisphere. In these examples we learn from experience. Quine appears to think that science can give us a kind of response to skepticism, for, as he pointed out, science can at least hope to explain why it is that our experience leads us to have largely correct beliefs.
But an epistemological naturalist might not think that this point provides an adequate philosophical response to skepticism. A variety of views about skepticism are compatible with naturalized epistemology. Hilary Kornblith distinguishes two questions about our beliefs. First is an explanation of why epistemological naturalism accepts this thesis. It does so because it is antiskeptical or at least non-skeptical. Second, naturalism does not merely hold that the psychology of belief formation is relevant to normative issues in epistemology.
It holds that our normative epistemology is to be constrained by the psychology of belief formation. Let me turn again to Quine.
Moral Epistemology Naturalized (Canadian journal of philosophy)
For he would not have said this if he had had in mind the epistemology of a theory that we take to be false, such as astrology. Naturalized epistemology is characterized by a non-skeptical doctrine combined with a methodological doctrine to the effect that our philosophical epistemology must be constrained by a plausible psychology of the processes whereby we acquire knowledge.
In studying the epistemology of a specific theory or body of beliefs, T, an epistemological naturalist would aim to arrive at corresponding specific doctrines, first, about the cognitive status of T, and second, about the cognitive status of the psychological processes that have led people to accept T. First, to simplify somewhat, the naturalist would have to decide whether or not to take T to be true. More 13 I shall leave open the question whether there is a priori knowledge, and if so, how it should be understood. Nothing in this paper turns on our having an answer to the question.
She might decide, for example, that some of the beliefs or some of the propositions in T are true and some are not. In many cases, the issues here will be philosophically subtle and controversial. Second, depending on what she decides about the cognitive status of T, she will reach corresponding or at least compatible conclusions about the cognitive status of the processes that have led people to accept T. If she takes T to be true, or parts of T to be true, then, depending on her normative epistemology, she presumably would take at least some of the psychological processes by which we come to accept T as sources of knowledge.
And if so, then as Quine suggests, she can use or assume T or the known parts of T in studying these processes. If she takes T not to be true, then she must allow that these processes are potential sources of error, and she cannot use T or assume T in studying the processes. In more nuanced cases, her views about the cognitive status of the mechanisms that have led to acceptance of T will need to be more subtle and nuanced.
A plausible naturalized epistemology of astrology would be built on the premise that the fundamental doctrines of astrology are false and not known. But a plausible naturalized epistemology of mathematics would instead be built on the premise that the theorems of mathematics are known.
A naturalist would presumably take a more nuanced view of theoretical physics, given that even the best theories in physics are sensibly taken to be open to revision. In order to get the project of naturalizing moral epistemology off the ground, the naturalist must decide whether we have moral knowledge, and, if she decides that we do, she must decide what it is that we know, at least within broad limits.
She has to decide the truth conditions of our moral beliefs. The problems here are the familiar problems of moral philosophy. The main contribution made by the epistemological naturalist would be the idea that our theories of what it is that we know, in having moral knowledge, and our theories of how it is that we know these things, must mesh with a plausible psychology of moral belief. An acceptable moral semantics and metaphysics must fit with an acceptable moral epistemology and an acceptable moral epistemology must fit with an acceptable empirical psychology of moral belief.
This is a familiar subtext in recent moral theory. According to nonnaturalism, moral properties are not natural properties, so our knowledge of their instantiation is not empirical.
Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences
It is widely agreed that 42 Four Epistemological Challenges to Ethical Naturalism non-naturalism owes us an explanation of how we can come to know that such properties are exemplified. How can we come to know that torture is wrong, for instance, unless wrongness is a property we can be acquainted with or otherwise related to in the natural world? How can we come to be in epistemically significant relations to non-natural properties given that, ultimately, all our knowledge is grounded in observation of the natural world?
The non-naturalist might posit a special faculty by which we can detect the wrongness of torture. According to the epistemological naturalist, our psychological holdings cannot properly be amended to serve the needs of our philosophical theories. Rather, our epistemology is properly constrained by the holdings of empirical psychology. There are controversies within psychology. We might view some of the tenets of a certain psychological theory, as we find it at a given time, to be empirically or otherwise scientifically suspect.
Because of this, the characteristic doctrine of naturalized epistemology needs to be interpreted with care. It is too crude to hold that our 15 The intuitionism proposed by Robert Audi does not postulate a special faculty. Mackie challenged any theory that postulates the existence of moral properties to provide a plausible epistemology of those properties.
He appears to think that no such account will be as comprehensible and as simple, and as plausible psychologically, as the idea that we are not perceiving a property of wrongness at all, but are rather simply responding subjectively and negatively to the natural features in question. See J. Instead, we should say this: If we take it that a given thesis is settled in current psychology and is not scientifically doubtful, then our epistemology must be compatible with that thesis.
The doctrine is roughly that our epistemology must be constrained by what we take to be the settled results of empirical psychology regarding the formation of our beliefs. This doctrine is not uncontroversial. It rules out amending the results of psychology in the interest of explaining the possibility of our having knowledge of a specific subject matter. An acceptable semantics for mathematics must fit an acceptable epistemology. Benacerraf does not explicitly say that a satisfactory epistemology of mathematics would have to mesh with an empirically plausible psychology of mathematical belief.
He appears to rule out the soundness of an argument from metaphysics and epistemology to the existence of a psychological faculty. He therefore appears to accept tenets that would be characteristic of a naturalized mathematical epistemology. But it is not clear what argument could be given in support of the doctrine. Suppose that certain philosophical theories in mathematical and moral epistemology and metaphysics are in tension with what the settled psychology of a given period tells us about mathematical and moral belief formation.
The thesis that, in this case, it is the philosophical theories that must give way, not the psychology, is itself a philosophical thesis. It is presumably derived from a more general doctrine to the effect that philosophy must be constrained by the results of science. It is not clear what arguments could be given in support of scientific prioritism, but it is nevertheless characteristic of naturalized epistemology as I understand it. But it is not the case that an ethical naturalist is logically committed to naturalized moral epistemology. Ethical naturalism is the view that moral properties are natural properties.
The parallel view in epistemology is the view that normative epistemological properties are natural properties. An ethical naturalist is not even logically committed to this latter thesis, and, anyway, it is distinct from naturalized epistemology. Naturalized epistemology is a position about the methodology of epistemology rather than a view about the metaphysics of normative epistemological properties. Ethical naturalism and naturalized epistemology are therefore 17 Richmond Campbell objected, in personal correspondence, that epistemology and psychology are interdependent, since psychological methodology reflects certain assumptions about epistemology, and since epistemological theory depends on certain assumptions about psychology.
It may still be true that epistemology must be constrained by what we take to be the settled results of empirical science. So it is important to consider whether ethical naturalism can adequately respond to the four epistemological challenges I described earlier in the paper without running afoul of scientific prioritism or any of the other tenets of naturalized epistemology.
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