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Two kinds of naturalism in ethics

Sinclair, Neil



What are the conditions on a successful naturalistic account of moral properties? In this paper I discuss one such condition: the possibility of moral concepts playing a role in good empirical theories on a par with those of the natural and social sciences. I argue that Peter Railton’s influential account of moral rightness fails to meet this condition, and thus is only viable in the hands of a naturalist who doesn’t insist on it. This conclusion generalises to all versions of naturalism that give a significant role to a dispositional characterisation of moral properties. I also argue, however, that the epistemological and semantic motivations behind naturalism are consistent with a version of naturalism that abandons the condition.


Sinclair, N. (2006). Two kinds of naturalism in ethics. Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, 9(4),

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Jan 1, 2006
Deposit Date Mar 14, 2012
Publicly Available Date Mar 14, 2012
Journal Ethical Theory and Moral Practice
Print ISSN 1386-2820
Electronic ISSN 1386-2820
Publisher Springer Verlag
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 9
Issue 4
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information The original publication is available at


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