restricted access Beyond the Hall of Mirrors: Naturalistic Ethics Out of Doors

Steady engagement, over the last decade or so, with the classical pragmatists has led Philip Kitcher to develop a position he calls “ethical pragmatic naturalism.” Ethical pragmatic naturalism has three legs: an analytic history, a metaethical stance, and a normative position. The first two of these extend and expand pragmatist, especially Deweyan, insights in novel and illuminating, if not entirely unproblematic, ways. In particular, we are offered a plausible, naturalistic account of how our species moved from its pre-ethical state to where it is today, as well as a metaethical account that takes progress, rather than truth, to be primary. The normative position, developed on the basis of the analytic history and metaethical stance, attempts to combine a refined version of Adam Smith’s theory of “social mirroring” with Deweyan moral experimentalism. I contend that Kitcher’s focus here falls too heavily on the cognitive dimensions of the ethical project, overemphasizing efforts of rule-formation, the alleged construction of an internalized “impartial spectator,” and an experimentalism construed primarily, if not exclusively, in terms of thought experiments. Consequently, Kitcher’s position hews far more closely to the traditional picture he is ciritcal of than it does to the revolutionary Dewey he claims as inspiration. I suggest that Kitcher’s position would be strengthened by a more robust construal of experimentalism, grounded in Deweyan habit, that puts greater emphasis on reconstruction of environing conditions as a crucial part of our toolkit for progressive change.