Read the following answer and produce a concise summary that will show the overall thrust. Then click on the answer and see a possible summary. Consider how it differs from your summary and whether the differences are significant.
The main features of Naturalism
This means that ethical Naturalism proposes:
That moral terms can be understood by analysing the natural world (empirical)
In other words, ethical language can be understood by referring to, and closely analysing, what we experience from the natural world around us. For example, we all understand that to experience the kindness of another is a ‘good’ experience and that to experience cruelty from another is a ‘bad’ experience.
That ethical statements are cognitivist and can be verified or falsified (cognitivist)
Taken further, this then means that our experiences have meaning because we can verify, from our experiences, that kind acts are ‘good’ and cruel acts are ‘bad’ due to the happiness or suffering that these experiences produce. We can all verify this and it means the same for everyone.
That verified moral statements are objective truths and universal
If the ethical descriptions and statements about our world have meaning for everyone then it also follows that they are objective truths and universal. If the world around us is objective or real, that is it exists independently of us, then it can be used to establish knowledge and truth. We can then discuss ethics meaningfully and establish certain propositions about good and bad ethical behaviour, for example that kindness is good, because our experience of the world verifies this.
That objective features of the world make propositions true or false (moral realism)
If these experiences are mind-independent, uniform and universal then this also means that the statements ‘kindness is an ethically good act’ and ‘cruelty is an ethically bad act’ are true because these experiences are grounded in the objective features of the world around us. That is, we can actually see how kindness works. From this, we all can agree that kindness is good because the experiences in the world around us establish that this is true.
The classical example of Ethical Naturalism as an ethical theory is that of Utilitarianism as proposed by Mill. A Utilitarian approach is typically Naturalistic in that it applies ethical reasoning from the basis of the experience of happiness and that the most useful ethical action is seen as that which brings the maximum levels of ‘happiness or pleasure’. Utilitarians argue that everyone should do the most useful thing. The most useful thing is seen as action or actions that result in maximum levels of happiness or pleasure. Therefore, actions that produce the most happiness are seen as good. However, Mill was very interested in establishing an ethical society, not just individual guidance, and therefore the most important contribution by Mill, then, can be argued to be his introduction of the idea of universalisability. This proposed that everyone ought to aim at the happiness of everyone, as increasing the general happiness will increase individual happiness. This argument then supports the idea that people should put the interests of the group before their own interests.
Ethical Naturalism argues that ethical language has cognitive meaning because it directly refers to what we experience and therefore can be verified. Therefore, ethical language is objective and mind-independent, or, corresponds to reality. For example, Utilitarianism argues that the most useful ethical action is seen as that which brings the maximum levels of ‘happiness or pleasure’. Therefore, we can all see that ‘cruelty is an ethically bad act’ because we know that it brings suffering and unhappiness when we see this occur in the empirical world.