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Encyclopedia > Naturalistic fallacy
George Edward Moore

The naturalistic fallacy is often claimed to be a formal fallacy. It was described and named by British philosopher G. E. Moore in his 1903 book Principia Ethica. Moore stated that a naturalistic fallacy was committed whenever a philosopher attempts to prove a claim about ethics by appealing to a definition of the term "good" in terms of one or more natural properties (such as "pleasant", "more evolved", "desired", etc.). George Edward Moore source: http://www. ... George Edward Moore source: http://www. ... In philosophy, a formal fallacy or a logical fallacy is a pattern of reasoning which is always wrong. ... George Edward Moore George Edward Moore, also known as G.E. Moore, (November 4, 1873 - October 24, 1958) was a distinguished and hugely influential English philosopher who was educated and taught at the University of Cambridge. ...


The naturalistic fallacy is related to, and often confused with, the is-ought problem (which comes from Hume's Treatise). As a result, the term is sometimes used loosely to describe arguments that claim to draw ethical conclusions from natural facts. David Hume raised the is-ought problem in his Treatise of Human Nature. ... This article is about the philosopher. ... A Treatise of Human Nature is a book by philosopher David Hume, published in 1739–1740. ...


Alternatively, the phrase "naturalistic fallacy" is used to refer to the claim that what is natural is inherently good or right, and that what is unnatural is bad or wrong (see "Appeal to nature"). Appeal to nature is a simplified type of naturalistic fallacy in argument form. ...

Contents

Moore's discussion

The title page of Principia Ethica
The title page of Principia Ethica

Moore's argument in Principia Ethica is (among other things) a defense of ethical non-naturalism; he argues that the term "good" (in the sense of intrinsic value) is indefinable, because it names a simple, non-natural property. It is, rather, "one of those innumerable objects of thought which are themselves incapable of definition, because they are the ultimate terms by reference to which whatever is capable of definition must be defined" (Principia Ethica § 10 ¶ 1). By contrast, many ethical philosophers have tried to prove some of their claims about ethics by appealing to an analysis of the meaning of the term "good"; they held, that is, that "good" can be defined in terms of one or more natural properties which we already understand (such as "pleasure", in the case of hedonists, or "survival", in the case of evolutionary ethics). Moore coined the term "naturalistic fallacy" to describe arguments of this form; he explains (in § 12) that the fallacy involved is an instance of a more general type of fallacy, which he leaves unnamed, but which we might call the "definitional fallacy". The fallacy is committed whenever a statement to the effect that some object has a simple indefinable property is misunderstood as a definition that gives the meaning of the simple indefinable property: Image File history File links Size of this preview: 367 × 599 pixelsFull resolution (773 × 1262 pixel, file size: 24 KB, MIME type: image/png) Scanned from G. E. Moores 1903 Principia Ethica, now in the public domain. ... Image File history File links Size of this preview: 367 × 599 pixelsFull resolution (773 × 1262 pixel, file size: 24 KB, MIME type: image/png) Scanned from G. E. Moores 1903 Principia Ethica, now in the public domain. ... This article needs cleanup. ... Intrinsic value can refer to: Intrinsic value (finance), of an option or stock. ... Analysis, in philosophy, is an account of the meaning or content of a word, phrase, or concept. ... This article does not cite any sources. ... The evolutionary ethic holds that the ultimate goal of human life is to maximize total creativity. ...

That "pleased" does not mean "having the sensation of red", or anything else whatever, does not prevent us from understanding what it does mean. It is enough for us to know that "pleased" does mean "having the sensation of pleasure", and though pleasure is absolutely indefinable, though pleasure is pleasure and nothing else whatever, yet we feel no difficulty in saying that we are pleased. The reason is, of course, that when I say "I am pleased", I do not mean that "I" am the same thing as "having pleasure". And similarly no difficulty need be found in my saying that "pleasure is good" and yet not meaning that "pleasure" is the same thing as "good", that pleasure means good, and that good means pleasure. If I were to imagine that when I said "I am pleased", I meant that I was exactly the same thing as "pleased", I should not indeed call that a naturalistic fallacy, although it would be the same fallacy as I have called naturalistic with reference to Ethics.

G. E. Moore, PE § 12

The point here is connected with Moore's understanding of properties and the terms that stand for them. Moore holds (§7) that properties are either complexes of simple properties, or else irreducibly simple. The meaning of terms that stand for complex properties can be given by using terms for their constituent properties in a definition; simple properties cannot be defined, because they are made up only of themselves and there are no simpler constituents to refer to. Besides "good" and "pleasure", Moore also offers colour terms as an example of indefinable terms; thus if one wants to understand the meaning of "yellow", one has to be shown examples of it; it will do no good to read the dictionary and learn that "yellow" names the colour of egg yolks and ripe lemons, or that "yellow" names the primary colour between green and orange on the spectrum, or that the perception of yellow is stimulated by electromagnetic radiation with a wavelength of between 570 and 590 nanometers. It is true that yellow is all these things, that "egg yolks are yellow" and "the colour perceived when the retina is stimulated by electromagnetic radiation with a wavelength of between 570 and 590 nanometers is yellow" are true statements. But the statements do not give the meaning of the term "yellow", and (Moore argues) to confuse them with a definition of "yellow" would be to commit the same fallacy that is committed when "Pleasure is good" is confused with a definition of "good".


Moore goes on to explain that he pays special attention to the fallacy as it occurs in ethics, and identifies that specific form of the fallacy as ‘naturalistic’, because (1) it is so commonly committed in ethics, and (2) because committing the fallacy in ethics involves confusing a natural object (such as survival or pleasure) with goodness, something that is (he argues) not a natural object. However, it is important to note that in spite of his rhetorical focus on the ‘naturalistic’ nature of the fallacy, Moore was not any more satisfied with theories that attempted to define goodness in terms of non-natural properties than he was with naturalistic theories; indeed, the basis of his criticism of “Metaphysical Ethics” in Chapter IV of Principia Ethica is that theories which define 'good' in terms of supernatural or metaphysical properties rest on the very same fallacy as naturalistic theories (§69). The target of Moore's discussion of the "naturalistic fallacy" is reductionism at least as much as it is naturalism specifically, and the important lesson, for Moore, is that the meaning of the term "good" and the nature of the property goodness are irreducibly sui generis. Look up Supernatural in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... Plato (Left) and Aristotle (right), by Raphael (Stanza della Segnatura, Rome) Metaphysics is the branch of philosophy concerned with explaining the ultimate nature of reality, being, and the world. ... Sui generis is a (post) Latin expression, literally meaning a scholar like what pradeep is or unique in its characteristics. ...


Moore advanced an argument for the indefinability of “good” (and demonstrating the “naturalistic fallacy”) which is known as the Open Question Argument. The naturalistic fallacy is an alleged logical fallacy concerning the semantics and metaphysics of ethical value. ...


Other uses

Appeal to nature

Main article: Appeal to nature

Some people use the phrase "naturalistic fallacy" or "Appeal to nature" to characterise inferences of the form "This behaviour is natural; therefore, this behaviour is morally acceptable" or "This behaviour is unnatural; therefore, this behaviour is morally unacceptable". Such inferences are common in discussions of homosexuality and cloning. While such inferences may indeed be fallacious, it is important to realise that Moore is not concerned with them. He is instead concerned with the semantic and metaphysical underpinnings of ethics. However, others hold that it may be reasonable to assert that the term "good" is merely an affirmation of approval, and that, as such, good may be defined as "I approve." Appeal to nature is a simplified type of naturalistic fallacy in argument form. ... Appeal to nature is a simplified type of naturalistic fallacy in argument form. ... Homosexuality refers to sexual interaction and / or romantic attraction between individuals of the same sex. ... For other uses, see clone. ... In general, semantics (from the Greek semantikos, or significant meaning, derived from sema, sign) is the study of meaning, in some sense of that term. ...


It is also important to note that Philosophers such as St. Thomas Aquinas held that the "good" was a process of actualiztion, where the formal principle of a natural object fulfilled its final cause (purpose), such that a tree's purpose is to develop another tree, or a bouncy ball's is to bounce. The formal principle to Aquinas was defined through Aristotle as "that which makes a thing what it is". Thus the source of potency to accomplish all natural objects ends is through the formal cause of an object. For which Aquinas suggests a non-dualistic model for substance: Form and Matter. This argument still holds a lot of weight, against the supposed "naturalistic fallacy". Aquinas held that what is good, is what is natural, in that God created all things and they were good. However, he argued from human reason rather than faith, when he discussed the ontological significance. He suggested that the end (fulfillment of its purpose) is the good, and there are various degrees of Good, such as the processes of development in a living being. Arguably, happiness is the ultimate end for all human beings, and thus, all morality is in reference to what actualizes this "happiness". But Aquinas argued that there was an objective principle, not relative, which accomplished self-actualization. A simple example is that drugs simulate happiness, but are only "apparent/false" happiness, while integrity, reason, and love all flow with nature, and therefore permit actualization of the ultimate end: happiness.


The is-ought problem

Main article: Is-ought problem

The term "naturalistic fallacy" is also sometimes used to describe the deduction of an "ought" from an "is" (the Is-ought problem), and has inspired the use of mutually reinforcing terminology which describes the converse (deducing an "is" from an "ought") either as the "reverse naturalistic fallacy" or the "moralistic fallacy." An example of a naturalistic fallacy in this sense would be to conclude Social Darwinism from the theory of evolution by natural selection, and of the reverse naturalistic fallacy to argue that the immorality of survival of the fittest implies the theory of evolution is false. Moralists Jeremy Bentham and Immanual Kant both indicated the is-ought problem in order to identify their theories of morality and law. David Hume raised the is-ought problem in his Treatise of Human Nature. ... David Hume raised the is-ought problem in his Treatise of Human Nature. ... Social Darwinism is the idea that Charles Darwins theory can be extended and applied to the social realm, i. ... This article is about evolution in biology. ... For other uses, see Natural selection (disambiguation). ... Herbert Spencer coined the phrase, survival of the fittest. ... Jeremy Bentham (IPA: or ) (February 15, 1748 O.S. (February 26, 1748 N.S.) – June 6, 1832) was an English jurist, philosopher, and legal and social reformer. ... Immanuel Kant (22 April 1724 – 12 February 1804), was a German philosopher from Königsberg in East Prussia (now Kaliningrad, Russia). ...


In using his categorical imperative Kant deduced that experience was necessary for their applications. But experience on its own or the imperative on its own could not possibly identify an act as being moral or immoral. We can have no certain knowledge of morality from them, being incapable of deducing how things ought to be from the fact that they happen to be arranged in a particular manner in experience.


Bentham, in discussing the relations of law and morality, found that when people discuss problems and issues they talk about how they wish it would be as opposed to how it actually is. This can be seen in discussions of natural law and positive law. Bentham's stinging criticism against all natural law theorists was this naturalistic fallacy, that they were describing how things ought to be instead of how things are. Natural law or the law of nature (Latin: lex naturalis) is an ethical theory that posits the existence of a law whose content is set by nature and that therefore has validity everywhere. ... Positive law is a legal term having more than one meaning. ...


References

  • Moore, George Edward (1903). Principia Ethica. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 
 It is the ought statement that is agrivating for philosophers. Especially for those who are interested in Environmental Ethics. For if one says something like: "Nature is good, therefore it ought to be", is actually as right as saying "Nature is good, therefore it ought to be burned", because the conclusion that nature ought to be...anything, does not explain why nature is good in the first place (or whatever one wants to use instead of good), and has no grounds in which to stand. Basics: The conclusion does not support the premise!!! 

See also

Appeal to tradition, also known as appeal to common practice or argumentum ad antiquitatem or false induction is a common logical fallacy in which a thesis is deemed correct on the basis that it has a long standing tradition behind. ... The appeal to novelty (also called argumentum ad novitatem) is a logical fallacy in which someone claims that his or her idea or proposal is correct or superior because it is new and modern. ... The definist fallacy involves the confusion between two notions by defining one in terms of the other. ... The == [[{| class=wikitable |- fact-value distinction |}]] == is a concept used to distinguish between arguments which can be claimed through reason alone, and those where rationality is limited to describing a collective opinion. ... In philosophy, meta-ethics or analytic ethics [1] is the branch of ethics that seeks to understand the nature of ethical properties, and ethical statements, attitudes, and judgments. ... This article is about methodological naturalism. ... The introduction to this article provides insufficient context for those unfamiliar with the subject matter. ... To meet Wikipedias quality standards, this article or section may require cleanup. ...

Further reading

  • Curry, O. (2006). Who's afraid of the naturalistic fallacy? Evolutionary Psychology, 4, 234-247. Full text
  • Walter, A. (2006). The anti-naturalistic fallacy: Evolutionary moral psychology and the insistence of brute facts. Evolutionary Psychology, 4, 33-48. Full text
  • Wilson, D.S., Dietrich, E., et al. (2003). On the inappropriate use of the naturalistic fallacy in evolutionary psychology. Biology and Philosophy, 18, 669-682. Full text

William Klass Frankena (June 21, 1908, Manhattan, Montana - October 22, 1994, Ann Arbor, Michigan) was an American philosopher, professor and chair of philosophy at the University of Michigan, and author of several introductory textbooks on moral philosophy and the philosophy of education. ... David Sloan Wilson (1949- ) is an American evolutionary biologist. ...

External links


  Results from FactBites:
 
Naturalistic Fallacy (1301 words)
Naturalistic fallacy – when what ‘ought to be’ is derived from what ‘is’; also known as a perspective which reduces the question of values to that of facts; logically classified as a fallacy of definition, diversion or irrelevance.
Naturalistic fallacies may therefore be seen as a legacy of Enlightenment thinking, as far as they perpetuate the myth that Reason, Science and Progress are sole referents to meaning, value and order in human life.
It is thus a naturalistic fallacy to insist an explosion ought to happen gradually by a natural process of species variation and differentiation enacted through random mutations.
naturalistic fallacy: Information from Answers.com (1626 words)
Moore coined the term "naturalistic fallacy" to describe arguments of this form; he explains (in § 12) that the fallacy involved is an instance of a more general type of fallacy, which he leaves unnamed, but which we might call the "definitional fallacy".
The term "naturalistic fallacy" is also sometimes used to describe the deduction of an "ought" from an "is" (the Is-ought problem), and has inspired the use of mutually reinforcing terminology which describes the converse (deducing an "is" from an "ought") either as the "reverse naturalistic fallacy" or the "moralistic fallacy".
An example of a naturalistic fallacy in this sense would be to conclude Social Darwinism from the theory of evolution by natural selection, and of the reverse naturalistic fallacy to argue that the immorality of survival of the fittest implies the theory of evolution is false.
  More results at FactBites »

 
 

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