Social Philosophy and Policy

Research Article

Naturalism and Prescriptivity*

Peter Railtona1

a1 Philosophy, University of Michigan

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.


* I would like to thank Paul Boghossian, Richard Brandt, David Copp, Stephen Darwall, William K. Frankena, Allan Gibbard, Donald Regan, Judith Jarvis Thomson, and David Velleman for discussion of some of the material contained in this text. I would also like to thank the editors of this volume for their assistance and patience.