Thursday, January 3, 2013


Brad Delong lays into Thomas Nagel's new book for its claim that Naturalism ultimately fails to make sense of the world. I haven't read Nagel's book yet, but I certainly agree with Nagel that naturalism is nonsense. This isn't because I am a super-naturalist, but because I am a normative realist:: a naturalist picture of the world doesn't allow for the reality of authoritative norms.  For naturalists, whether Humeans or (most but not all) Kantians, there is no fact of the matter about what we have reason to do.  If so,  science itself - because it depends on the objective authority of norms concerning what we have reason to believe - wouldn't make sense.  Economists in general are naturalists avant la lettre: they believe, almost to a person, that our reasons flow simply from our desires. This is normative nihilism. Normative realists believe that something's being good gives us a reason to want it, while a nihilist reverses this and makes its being good simply consist in our wanting it. Nihilism is absurd and should be rejected. If Delong wants to maintain his naturalism, he needs to answer not only Nagel, but Derek Parfit's new book, On What Matters - his masterpiece- which makes the case for normative (especially moral) realism (what he calls cognitivist non-naturalism ) better than I've ever seen it made.

Happy New Year, everyone!

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