Monday, 4 October 2010

ethical naturalism and recognising 'good'

Ethical Naturalists are Cognitivists. They believe moral statements can be proved true or false based around a particular philosophy in which people live their life. Moral statements can be proved through empirical testing (use of the senses). This makes them verifiable to Ethical Naturalists. There are various kinds of Ethical Naturalism. Key examples follow:


St. Thomas Aquinas is probably one of the most important figures in theological philosophy. He developed some of the most important Christian philosophy of the past millennium. He was an advocator of the theological naturalist philosophy. Theological Naturalists maintain that goodness is linked to the will of God as seen in nature. God's will defines morality: murder is wrong because God commands against murder.

A depiction of St. Thomas Aquinas


R.B. Perry contemplated the idea of Hedonistic Naturalism. Hedonistic Naturalists see goodness as a fact of pleasure or happiness. Perry suggested that 'good' means "being an object of favourable interest" and 'right' means "being conductive to harmonious happiness". For Perry, 'x is good' is the same as 'x is an object of desire', while 'y is right' is the same as 'y is conductive to harmonious happiness'.

Portrait of Ralph Barton Perry


F.H. Bradley wrote a book called Ethical Studies (1876). In his book he wrote how he believed that moral perspective was determined from self-realisation and from observing one’s position in society.

  • He rejected Hedonism (R.B. Perry) as he believed that pleasure provides no self understanding.
  • He also opposed a key idea of philosopher Immanuel Kant of duty for the sake of duty, on the grounds that it doesn’t guide us in morality or give us human satisfaction.

Bradley concluded that the better approach was to pursue self realisation within the community. He wrote;

“…we have found the end. We have found self realisation, duty, and happiness in one – yes, we have found ourselves, when we have found our station and its duties, our function as an organ of the social organism.” (Bradley, 1927, p. 163).

F.H Bradley says that to be a good person, we must know our station and its duties in society. The good of society is about hard work and obedience. Once your position in life is decided, you have a duty to perform the function of that station.

F.H. Bradley

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