Natural
property is any physical or psychological feature of the world that is
accessible to us, for example, colours, sounds, tastes, smells, psychological
features such as anger, happiness, pleasure, pain, and physiological features
such as health. Naturalism states that moral properties can be reduced down to
natural properties. Non-naturalism by contrast holds that moral properties
cannot be reduced to natural properties. Naturalism and non-naturalism are
types of moral realism. Moral realism is a cognitivist view that there are
objective moral truths. Cognitivism holds that moral terms such as ‘good’,
‘bad’, ‘right’, ‘wrong’ and so on, are real properties independently of us and
our interpretation or perception of them. Moral statements such as ‘murder is
wrong’ are true statements about facts. So moral truths can be known. And these moral truths are
objective because it’s not a subjective matter of opinion whether kindness is
good, or whether telling the truth is right. Moral truths are already out there
independently of us. So cognitivists agree that there are knowable moral facts;
where they disagree and split into groups (i.e. naturalism and non-naturalism)
is with regard to what kind of facts
these are and how we come to know
them.

Naturalism holds
that moral truths can either (a) be defined in terms of natural properties in
the world or (b) be logically deduced from natural properties. Naturalism
agrees that moral properties can be reduced down to natural properties.
However, within naturalism, conflict arises over which natural property
goodness should be defined as or deduced from. Among these naturalistic
theories are different forms of utilitarianism. A naturalistic theory,
Hedonistic Utilitarianism holds that ‘good’ can be defined as pleasure (a
natural property in sentient beings). So to call someone or something ‘good’
means that it is pleasurable or causes pleasure and the opposite of ‘good’
(i.e. bad) would be pain inducing or pain (another natural property in the
sentient beings). So for hedonistic utilitarian, ‘good’ = pleasure. However,
complications start when we try to define ‘pleasure’ in itself? There are
actions that may give pleasure yet be considered undesirable and not good. This
problem arises when we try to apply the ethical statement “good = pleasure” to
situations and things. For example, use of recreational drugs such as marijuana,
cocaine and lsd, creates pleasure for the person who uses these drugs. If good
is defined as what creates pleasure and use of recreational drugs causes
pleasure for a person then does that mean the use of recreational drugs is
good? Would it be good action to provide recreational drugs to others? These
questions are raised as a result of equating a moral property with a natural
property (i.e. good = pleasure). When naturalism reduces a moral property to a
natural property then the boundaries of morality are violated and limited. What
leads to the achievement of pleasure (i.e. natural property) can be considered
good but this will also include undesirable actions, actions which can be
harmful for the person or society. Similarly anything outside the realm of reduced
moral value would be considered not good or wrong. Naturalism
produces a clearly defined rule which can then be applied universally, at all
times. Consider the act of sexual intercourse in context of
consequentialism. In certain religious teachings, it’s declared that natural
purpose of sexual intercourse is to fertilise an egg (i.e. conception), which
will be nurtured within the womb of the mother to give birth to another human
being. Any effort to discourse the conception will be wrong because it tries to
separate sexual intercourse from its natural purpose (i.e. consequence of
sexual intercourse in this scenario). We are concerned with the final cause of
the action. Whether the action is right or wrong will be decided if it causes
the desired end goal. We can simplify this naturalistic ethical statement, an
action is right if it the final cause is a natural consequence. To conceive a
child, natural method is sexual intercourse between a male and a female. Naturalism
is appealing to a natural feature in the world i.e. giving birth. To have
sexual intercourse is ‘right’ (i.e. moral value) if the final cause is conception
(a possible natural consequence made a natural property). Here the morality of
an action (i.e. rightness and wrongness) is reduces to one single consequence
(i.e. conception). However, if it is the final cause that determines whether
something is right or wrong then speaking in terms of sex, intercourse between
members of the same sex is wrong because it cannot result in conception. Intercourse
with those who are outside the age range for child bearing or cannot bear a
child is wrong, the use of contraception would be wrong for the same reason
that it halts the natural consequence. With the proposition “To have sexual
intercourse is ‘right’ if the final cause is conception”, a naturalist can argue
from moral reasoning to favour of
naturalism. (Ethics Pg 194). Naturalists hold that when we are having moral
debates with one another we rely on reasoning to solve the dispute. This
reasoning that we appeal to, with the purpose of winning the argument and to show
the truth we use natural facts. We use natural consequences as evidence to
whether an action is right or wrong, whether an action should or should not be
done. For example, a person may argue that it is wrong to give someone
recreational drugs for the reason that it can kill them. Recreational drugs
cause pleasure and they can also cause death. Death and pleasure, both are
natural facts which are used to declare an action ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. (These natural
facts are empirical i.e. observable. We feel pleasure, we see death happening
to other people, and we know it is going to happen to everyone). So naturalists
conclude that if natural facts are being used in moral arguments, then moral
values such as right and good are closely related to natural facts wither by
definition or by deduction. 

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