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Meaningfulness of morality in naturalism

  1. Oct 3, 2012 #1
    I have been discussing the issue of morality with several naturalists, and we seem to have come to an impasse. I'd like some help breaking apart my issues to see what is valid and what is not. They'll be following along and can chime in to clarify. I'll list a few of my major problems with naturalistic morality below. Feel free to expound on whichever ones stand out.

    1. Naturalists believe in empiricism and the scientific method, and most generally shun a priori sorts of knowledge. A naturalist's morality can effectively get them towards a desired end, but how can that end be said to be the "better" end simply from observing nature? Naturalists can objectively and effectively reach a selected end, but what deemed which end is the "right" end? Isn't that like concluding that more gravity exists where there is more mass, therefore we should all desire to be more massive? Who said a stronger force of gravity is more desirous?

    2. Even if a majority of people agree on an end from #1, can we really say anything more than that we observe a directly proportional relationship to pleasure and survival in people who agree with the majority? In a naturalistic world, how do we get past mere observation to honestly believing that people "should" follow the majority? "Should" here seems to only have meaning in the sense that you can do it if your desires align with it, yet most naturalists I meet think people are truly bound by the morality of the day.

    3. Morality in naturalism seems to be based upon tendencies of human nature. When a serial killer arises and seeks pleasure in his own way, because he is anomalous, he is destroyed by the society. How is this an observation of society carrying out "justice" or what should be done, as opposed to the majority imposing their will on the minority? Morality, then, seems to just be a description of power assertion based on majority tendencies in a group.

    4. If matter is all that exists, and we're a compilation of matter, we seem to be bound by the same laws as the rest of matter - reacting to stimuli. How can we meaningfully say others must follow society's morals, when we're all just naturally responding to our environment with no ability to do other than what our genes and circumstances determine?

    TLDR: Morality seems to be beyond observation, which doesn't fit with naturalism. If it is based on observation, it loses the connotations most associate with it, as it becomes deterministic and power based rather than a measure of a static standard expected of all.
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 3, 2012 #2


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