Document Type


Date of Degree

Summer 2013

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In


First Advisor

Jeske, Diane

First Committee Member

Fumerton, Richard

Second Committee Member

Fales, Evan

Third Committee Member

Figdor, Carrie

Fourth Committee Member

Hasan, Ali


The aim of this dissertation is to show that, if one is committed to the scientific worldview, one is thereby committed to ethical non-naturalism.

In the first chapter I offer the reader an outline of the three primary domains of ethical inquiry: normative ethics, applied ethics, and meta-ethics. I commit myself to a meta-ethical thesis--ethical non-naturalism--and contrast ethical non-naturalism with its competitors.

In the second chapter I offer a cursory defense of the moral realist's semantic thesis. I offer reason to think the realist has the correct semantic account and argue against the semantic accounts offered by the realist's primary opponents.

In the third chapter of the dissertation I argue that commitment to the scientific worldview requires that one think that the methods of the sciences provide privileged access to facts about the external world and I offer a brief sketch of inference to the best explanation--the primary method I will employ in offering a defense of ethical non-naturalism.

In the fourth chapter I develop a method for identifying non-natural properties. The method relies heavily on the predictive power that can be gained by the accurate application of predicates.

In the fifth chapter I apply the method developed in the previous chapter. The results are mixed. The method fails to demonstrate that there are non-natural moral facts; however, it does demonstrate that there are non-natural normative facts. Using this result as a lemma, I identify a hypothesis--"[H]"--that, if true, would vindicate ethical non-naturalism.

In the sixth chapter I rely on [H] to respond to evolutionary criticisms of ethical non-naturalism and argue that, if morality evolved, we have good reason to believe [H].

In the final chapter, I defend the view I have developed from objections arising from the existence of moral disagreement and I argue that [H] provides the best explanation of the existence of actual moral disagreement.


iv, 249 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 244-249).


Copyright 2013 Abraham Graber

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