A Defense of the New Natural Law Theory


in In Defense of Natural Law

Published in print February 1999 | ISBN: 9780198267713
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191683343 | DOI:
A Defense of the New Natural Law Theory

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This chapter tries to meet the fundamental challenge to natural law theory and other ‘cognitivist’ ethical theories mounted by ‘subjectivists’ or ‘non-cognitivists’ who are deeply skeptical of reason’s capacity to identify non-instrumental reasons for action and objective norms of morality. Jeffrey Goldsworthy, a contemporary philosopher who presents a sophisticated and vigorous critique of natural law ethical theory from a neo-Humean point of view, is a principal interlocutor. He maintains that moral norms and other basic practical principles are, in the end, mere projections of subjective feeling or emotion. The chapter also engages Goldsworthy’s very capable representation of John Mackie’s argument ‘from queerness’ against belief in objective values, and his claim that non-cognitivism offers ‘the best explanation’ for our moral experience.

Keywords: natural law; ethical theories; morality; emotion; Jeffrey Goldsworthy

Chapter.  6463 words. 

Subjects: Jurisprudence and Philosophy of Law

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