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Philosophical Theories

This study will define, compare, contrast, and critically evaluate the philosophical/ethical theories of naturalism, theological voluntarism, ideal judgment, relativism, existentialism, and emotivism.

Naturalism holds that "moral facts are facts of nature" and believes in the "sensible thesis that all facts are facts of nature." The major problem with naturalism as it is extended from natural facts to morality (moral facts) is that there is a leap required in order to avoid ethical nihilism:

If an analysis of moral facts as facts about functions, roles, and interests could be made plausible, that would be a powerful argument for ethical naturalism. But the relevant functions, roles, and interests can at best be only vaguely indicated, so the proposed analysis is difficult to evaluate ("Nihilism" 17).

Naturalism, based in natural, observable, objective facts, must make a leap into ethical judgment. It does so by holding that "moral facts . . . can be reduced to natural facts of a sort that might explain observations" ("Nihilism" 18). Of course, by "explain" the ethical naturalist means "judge." The nihilistic naturalist holds that the ethical naturalist betrays both the natural and the factual bases of naturalism by making that leap into the judgment or "ought" of ethics. The ethical naturalist holds that the analysis of the proper (natural) "functions, roles and interests" of human beings leads to ethical assessment of human behavior, believing that one human function is to live and behave ethically. Again, the major defect in ethical naturalism is that "the 'relevant interests' are not specified in a precise naturalistic way" ("Nihilism" 19).

The philosophy of theological voluntarism stands in stark contrast to naturalism. Naturalism is derived entirely from observation of nature (and its vague, problematic extension into ethics); theological voluntarism focuses on the will of God, an entirely unobservable phenomenon. T...

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