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Metaethics after Moore$
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Terry Horgan and Mark Timmons

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780199269914

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199269914.001.0001

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Normative Properties

Normative Properties

(p.319) 14 Normative Properties
Metaethics after Moore

Allan Gibbard

Oxford University Press

Moore claimed that what he took to be the fundamental moral concept, goodness, is a non-natural concept. From this, together with his premise that there is a property — goodness — he inferred that the concept goodness signifies a non-natural property. This chapter distinguishes properties from concepts, and accepts that there is a difference between basic moral concepts and naturalistic concepts. However, it argues that moral concepts signify natural properties: some natural property is the property of being good. The main thesis is a so-called thesis of natural constitution: some broadly natural property constitutes being what one ought to do. The main argument for this claim begins with a traditional non-cognitivist (expressivist) theme that to understand what the word ‘ought’ means we need to say what it is to think or claim that someone ought to do something. Ought-statements are understood in terms of the activity of planning, and it is proposed that we can best grasp the content or meaning of such statements by understanding what it is to disagree in plan. The upshot of this argument is that any planner is committed to the thesis of natural constitution. The rest of the chapter paper is concerned with exploring and defending the philosophical assumptions (e.g. about the nature of properties) presupposed in this argument. The overall metaethical view of the chapter represents a blend of non-naturalism about moral concepts with naturalism about moral properties.

Keywords:   natural concepts, non-natural concepts, natural properties, non-natural properties, natural constitution, expressivist, non-cognitivist, planning, naturalism, nonnaturalism

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