Naturalism and Value (Take 2)
Ellis (Fiona)
Source: Religion and Naturalism, Heythrop College, 12 July 2010
Paper - Abstract

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  1. Introduction
    I am sympathetic to the naturalistic outlook and favour a theistic position. How can this be so?
  2. Varieties of naturalism
    The scientific naturalist claims that science is the measure of all things. and that value is to be comprehended in scientific terms. One of his aims is to demystify value. The expansive naturalist agrees that value must be demystified, but denies that it can be comprehended scientifically. He allows that there is more to the natural world than what the scientist can comprehend, and that it incorporates value. 'Values are not reduced; they are swallowed whole' (James Griffith. This is the naturalistic outlook I favour.
  3. Questions and Worries
    The scientific naturalist will object that this fails to demystify value. The objection holds if we accept scientific naturalism, but the expansive naturalist contests this position.
  4. How expansive can we be?
    How far are we permitted to go when we broaden the limits of nature? Can it be expanded to accommodate value? If so, what does this commit us to?
  5. God
    Paul Copan claims that objective values make no sense in a non-theistic world. His position would fail to persuade the expansive moral naturalist. Does the theist have room for manoeuvre? I consider an approach to God which shares the structure of the expansive moral naturalist's argument. God, like value. is ‘swallowed whole'.
  6. Whither now?
    To assess this move we need a reappraisal of nature-expansion. What entitles us to a particular conception of nature? Does a value-involving conception require a further ascent to God? Are there independent reasons for thinking that value requires reference to God? Is the expansive moral naturalist a theist in spite of himself?
Selected bibliography
Comment:

Conference hand-out. Abstract is the full text, though the speaker read from a much fuller text.

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