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Naturalism and Prescriptivity*

  • Peter Railton (a1)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 01 January 2009

Statements about a person's good slip into and out of our ordinary discourse about the world with nary a ripple. Such statements are objects of belief and assertion, they obey the rules of logic, and they are often defended by evidence and argument. They even participate in common-sense explanations, as when we say of some person that he has been less subject to wild swings of enthusiasm and disappointment now that, with experience, he has gained a clearer idea of what is good for him. Statements about a person's good present themselves as being about something with respect to which our beliefs can be true or false, warranted or unwarranted. Let us speak of these features as the descriptive side of discourse about a person's good.

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J.L. Mackie , Ethics: Inventing Right and Wrong (New York: Penguin, 1977).

Peter Railton , “Facts and Values,” Philosophical Topics, vol. 14 (Fall 1986), pp. 531.

Richard W. Miller , “Ways of Moral Learning,” Philosophical Review, vol. 94 (October 1985), pp. 502–50

Peter Railton , “Moral Realism,” The Philosophical Review, vol. 95 (April 1986), pp. 163207

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