+ Site Statistics
+ Search Articles
+ PDF Full Text Service
How our service works
Request PDF Full Text
+ Follow Us
Follow on Facebook
Follow on Twitter
Follow on LinkedIn
+ Subscribe to Site Feeds
Most Shared
PDF Full Text
+ Translate
+ Recently Requested

John Woolman and Ethical Progress in Kitcher's Pragmatic Naturalism



John Woolman and Ethical Progress in Kitcher's Pragmatic Naturalism



Journal of Psychohistory 44(3): 200-220



The development of John Woolman’s views on slavery plays an important evidentiary role in Philip Kitcher’s recent book, The ethical project (Kitcher 2011). In this work Kitcher takes what he calls a “pragmatic naturalist” approach to ethics and claims that the discovery of ethical truth plays no role in the emergence of ethical progress. To support his view, he argues that Woolman’s contribution was not due to his discovery of an ethical truth about slavery, not previously known, but due to his sensitivity to slavery and his influence on others, which contributed to collective progressive change in moral norms involving slavery. While not disputing Kitcher’s ethical theory, I argue that personal discoveries of a moral psychological nature made by Woolman served both as insights and motivations for his contribution. Thus, even if there are no such things as independent ethical truths that can be discovered by individuals, a fully naturalistic approach to ethical progress requires that we make room not only for group-level progressive evolution of norms, but also for individual discoveries of a moral psychological nature that can sometimes cause an individual to play a significant initiating role in progressive ethical transitions that occur at a group level.

Please choose payment method:






(PDF emailed within 1 workday: $29.90)

Accession: 065267448

Download citation: RISBibTeXText

PMID: 29443483


Related references

A Pragmatic Reconstruction of the Naturalism/Anti-Naturalism Debate. Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour 17(1): 93-112, 1987

Which naturalism for bioethics? A defense of moderate (pragmatic) naturalism. Bioethics 22(2): 92, 2008

John Woolman's Light in the Night: An Analysis. Dreaming 10(3): 149-160, 2000

The Ethical Project Philip Kitcher , The Ethical Project Cambridge, Ma: Harvard University Press, 2011, 432 pages, Isbn 978-0674061446. Hardcover, $49.95. Politics and the Life Sciences 32(2): 134-135, 2013

Living with Darwin: Evolution, Design, and the Future of Faithby Phillip Kitcher; Philip Kitcher. History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 30(1): 119-120, 2008

Ethical relativism, ethical naturalism, and behavior therapy. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 48(1): 14-16, 1980

Feminism, Primatology, and Ethical Naturalism. Politics and the Life Sciences 11(2): 157-170, 1992

A Deweyan Defense of Ethical Naturalism. Society 50(6): 576-580, 2013

Ethical Naturalism and Forms of Relativism. Society 50(6): 570-575, 2013

Human Nature, Personhood, and Ethical Naturalism. Philosophy 84(329): 413-427, 2009

Skill, Practical Wisdom, and Ethical Naturalism. Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 18(5): 983-993, 2015

Comparing Ethical Naturalism and Public Sociology. Society 50(6): 598-601, 2013

John van Wyhe:Phrenology and the Origins of Victorian Scientific Naturalism. Isis 95(4): 738-739, 2004

Beyond the Fact/Value Distinction: Ethical Naturalism and the Social Sciences. Society 50(6): 543-553, 2013

Ethical issues in pragmatic randomized controlled trials: a review of the recent literature identifies gaps in ethical argumentation. Bmc Medical Ethics 19(1): 14, 2018