EPLab • Reading Group

Naturalising Moral Naturalism

Jessica Isserow

The next session of The Sciences of Ethics and Political Philosophy Reading Group will take place on March 13 at 2:15 PM [WET/UTC]. The group will discuss the paper by Jessica Isserow (2023), “Naturalising Moral Naturalism” [Journal of Ethics & Social Philosophy, 25(3)]. Session with the confirmed presence of the author.


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.

Anyone interested in participating can send an email to Filipe Faria: filipefaria@fcsh.unl.pt.

The Sciences of Ethics and Political Philosophy Reading Group is an international monthly-assembling online reading group co-hosted by the CFCUL and the Ethics and Political Philosophy Lab (EPLab) of the IFILNOVA. More information about the group here.