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2. Ethical Naturalism

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About this Lecture


In this module, we explore the concept of ethical naturalism, which holds that moral properties both exist and are natural properties, i.e. discoverable in the same way that we find out about other natural properties. In particular, we think about: (i) the intuitiveness of ethical naturalism, and some examples of ethical naturalism in practice; (ii) the association of ethical naturalism and two normative ethical theories: utilitarianism and Aristotelian virtue ethics; and (iii) an argument against ethical naturalism: G. E. Moore’s ‘open-question argument’.


In this course, Dr Iain Law (University of Birmingham) provides a comprehensive introduction to the field of philosophy known as metaethics. In the first module, we provide an introduction to metaethics itself, including the difference between metaethics and normative ethical theories such as utilitarianism and virtue ethics and some of the key questions that metaethics poses. In the second and third modules, we explore two approaches to metaethics that agree moral properties exist (moral realism) but disagree as to the nature of these properties: naturalism and non-naturalism. In the fourth module, we explore two arguments from David Hume that move us towards a view that contribute to how we think and talk about metaethics, before turning in the fifth, sixth and seventh modules to three accounts of metaethics that agree that moral properties do not exist (moral anti-realism) but disagree as what is going on when we make a moral statement – A. J. Ayer and Emotivism, R. M. Hare and Prescriptivism, and J. M. Mackie and Moral Error Theory.


Iain Law is a Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Birmingham. His main interests are in meta-ethics, applied ethics and ethical theory, and he is currently working on papers in moral theory, moral psychology, the philosophy of medicine and applied ethics.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Law, I. (2021, January 01). Metaethics - Ethical Naturalism [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Law, I. "Metaethics – Ethical Naturalism." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 01 Jan 2021,