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Chickens, chameleons, and emos: From ethical naturalism to not-just-naturalism

Sophie Grace Chappell
Friday, February 24, 2023, 4:00 pm – 5:30 pm

I offer a critique of ethical naturalism in the style of Philippa Foot, Rosalind Hursthouse, and Michael Thompson. My main conclusions are 1) that as things are, their theory is dangerously dependent on bad science, and especially a conception of animals more suited to a mediaeval bestiary than to modern zoology; 2) that natural normativity is real, but on its own an under-determining base for ethical normativity; 3) that ethical naturalism takes insufficient account of the possibilities that people might without incoherence take no interest either in the dominant version of flourishing, or indeed in any version of flourishing; 4) that ethical naturalism’s focus on the “glossy coat and the gleaming eye” leaves us saying not enough about the realities of human experience, about phenomenological ethics; and so 5) that we need to move from “ethical naturalism” to “not-just-naturalism”, to a view that uses the resources of natural normativity but is open to using other resources too.

Sophie Grace Chappell has been Professor of Philosophy at The Open University since 2006. Before that she was Reader in Philosophy at the University of Dundee (1998-2006), and before that she held posts at Wolfson College, Oxford (1991-1994), Merton College, Oxford (1992-1994), UEA (1994-1996), and Manchester (1996-1998). Her main interests in philosophy are ethics, the philosophy of literature, the philosophy of sex and gender, ancient and mediaeval philosophy, epistemology, and philosophy of religion. Her books include: Aristotle and Augustine on Freedom, Understanding Human Goods, The Inescapable Self, Reading Plato's Theaetetus, Ethics and Experience, Knowing What To Do, Songs For Winter Rain, Epiphanies: an Ethics of Experience.