Ethics, Philosophy 450

Mohammad Azadpur

December 14, 2013

Morality: Reason Not The Will


In this paper, we will discuss the difference between Nietzsche’s ethical voluntarism and Aristotelian Intellectualism. I will argue that Nietzsche’s concept of the Overman fails since we cannot ground objective morality in the will and Aristotelian Intellectualism is the better choice.
Nietzsche’s Ethical Voluntarism

Ethical Voluntarism is “the view that the will is free to act against the dictates of reason and conviction that moral responsibility depends on this conception of the will’s freedom” (2) Nietzsche’s ethical voluntarism seeks to teach an individual that they can be free from the norm and regulations of reason and create their own reality and sense of good. Nietzsche would define the good as freedom from reason and reliance on the will. He uses the analogy of the metamorphosis of the Camel, Lion, and Child to express how an individual overcomes reason with the will.

Three Metamorphosis and the Overman

The first metamorphoses is the Camel. This phase represents an individual who carries burdens such as morality, decisions, responsibilities. Once the individual grows weary of this phase, they will to be free from this and they become the Lion. (4) The Lion rebells against the norm, against society’s morality; it questions the responsibilities and moralities created by the Great Dragon, which represents, ‘Thou shalt”. On the contrary, the Lion states, “I will”; the Lion represents the mighty will-power needed to birth and catalyst an individual seeking freedom from the rules of reason. (4) After throwing off the history of moral responsibilities and duties that man has created through reason, the Child is born. The Child represents an individual who has been reborn with the ability to create a reality that one wills.

This last representation is the Overman, who is the transformation of man to a god-like stage. The Overman surfaces after an individual goes through the stages of camel, lion, and child. The Overman represents an individual who killed killed God and elected themselves to take His place. Man is an embarrassment to the overman, man is the middle ground between ape and Overman. Man represents the moral constructs he forged by his reasons and the ape represents pure animalistic instinct. The Overman is the epitome of the ‘will’. Since the God is dead, there is no supreme overseer anymore, thus, the position is taken up by the Overman; a self-governing and self-willing man, who is solely guided by the will and not by reason.

Aristotelian Intellectualism

Aristotelian Intellectualism, on the other hand, defines a good life as pursing the good through our faculty of our intellect, guided by our reason. Aristotle theorized three stages of life which are: the Life of Vulgar, Politicians, and Student.(1) The Life of Vulgar and Politicians are based on the pursuit of pleasure and desires. The Student represents the peak of good, since it pursues what reason seeks after. This role involves a lifetime of learning and the chasing intelligence, which Aristotle believes is the greatest virtue. In short, Aristotelian intellectualism is defined as an individual who is guided by reason to action. (1) 

The enemy of reason is Akrasia, which is the undisciplined, incontinence, weakness of the will. Self-control is defined as conforming to rational considerations, the lack of this self control is akrasia. (5) Akrasia wages war against reason in hopes that emotions and passion will win. Aristotle remains an intellectualist since he believes that the activity of the intellect, which is the pursuit of knowledge, is itself a pleasure in its own respect. A pleasure distinct and greater than the pleasure grounded in akrasia since it is grounded in reason rather than the weakness of the will.

Conclusion: Reason Over The Will

The problem with Nietzsche’s Overman is that the will cannot ground morality because it is subjective to the individual. If everyone pursues to become an Overman there will be chaos. Since there is no supreme moral overseer [God] left, each individual becomes a god that creates their own moral reality, thus everyone would clash with each other because there is no unified standard of morality. On the contrary, morality can be grounded in reason, since reason is universally accessible to everyone. Through reason, one acts upon justified beliefs. To illustrate, a person reasons that killing another person would cause grief and if this behavior was universalized, it would be very problematic, therefore, an individual guided by reason would refrain from this action. However, on Nietzsche’s model, a person driven by the will would not consider these because they do not abide by the “Thou shalt” or the moral constructions created by man’s reasons, instead, they would depend strictly on their will. My position is to lean towards aristotelian intellectualism because reason proceeds the will before an action is made. I believe on this view reason can lead us to a common morality, whereas, on ethical voluntarism, morality cannot be universally experienced since it is subjective to the individual.


  1. Aristotle. “Nicomachean Ethics”
  2. Bonnie Kent. 1995. “Virtues of the Will”. Washington DC, CUA
  3. McDowell, John. 1998. “Virtue and Reason”. Mind, Value, and Reality. Harvard University Press. Cambridge, Massachusetts and London, England.
  4. Walter Kaufmann. 1954. “Thus Spoke Zarathustra: A Book for None and All, trans”. New York: Penguin, 1954
  5. Richard Kraut. “Aristotle’s Ethics.”  Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy http://

Ethics, Philosophy 450

Mohammad Azadpur

December 15, 2013

Morality is Not Compatible with Ethical Naturalism


In this paper, we will be discussing the issues about ethical naturalism, ethical non-naturalism, and the open question argument. I will defend the position that Moore’s Open Question argument does succeed in defeating Ethical Naturalism.

Moore’s Critique of Ethical Naturalism

Ethical naturalism is a moral theory that ethical statements can be expressed as the same way as factual statements. In Moral Problems by Palmer, ethical naturalism is a theory that translates all ethical statements to non-ethical into verifiable factual statements. (2) Moore’s critique of ethical naturalism is his Open Question Argument, which asks whether a proposition is an evaluative term, which implies an ‘ought’ to a proposition, or whether it is a non-evaluative, which assumes an ‘is’ to a proposition. In Moral Problems, Palmer writes that, “Moore maintains that all naturalistic definitions of ethical terms will result in ‘open questions’, his claim is that no ethical term can be defined solely in terms of any natural property. To suppose otherwise is to commit the ‘naturalistic fallacy’. (2)

On Moore’s view, attempts to define ethical language about ‘good’ through naturalistic terms such as ‘pleasure’ , ‘happiness’, and ‘desire’ are problematic. (2) Moore attacks the naturalist position, that ‘ought’ doesn’t imply ‘is’. The naturalist position believes that the natural properties of a thing is good, moreover, they believe that you can take evaluative terms and turn it into a non-evaluative term. For example, the naturalist transposes “the pop-tarts tastes good”, to “the pop-tarts is good”. The naturalist attempts to turn evaluative terms to non-evaluative properties. Moore’s Open Question argument asks whether the ‘pop-tarts’ really is good? The ability to ask this question overturns the naturalist position, which holds that good is a non-evaluative property of a natural object.

The Naturalistic Fallacy, “assumes that goodness is something that can be grasped by an act of direct observation”. (2) In order for the naturalist position to hold true, all individuals must have an understanding of the same ‘good’. To illustrate, when individual A says, “this guitar ought to be a good guitar, in fact, it is good.” All individuals should also believe and express that the ‘guitar is good’ as necessary quality of that guitar that can be universally attested by everyone. However, if individual B asks, “Is the guitar really good?”, then the naturalist commits the naturalistic fallacy, trying to derive an ‘is’ from an ‘ought’; the guitar as a physical object cannot have the property of ‘goodness’.

Moore’s Alternative

Moore’s alternative position is that ‘good’ should be universally understood by everyone; that everyone has an instinct for ‘good’. This position is called Ethical Non-Naturalism, which is the moral theory that proposes that human beings have a moral intuition of whether an ethical proposition is true or false and it is self-evident; moral properties such as ‘goodness’ are non-natural properties, which cannot be derived naturally but known intuitively by the individual. (2)

Conclusion: Morality is Not Compatible With Ethical Naturalism

From what we discussed, we have seen that ethical naturalism commits the naturalistic fallacy, which is deriving an ‘is’ from an ‘ought’. The main problem with ethical naturalism is that it assumes that ethical properties such as ‘good’ and ‘evil’ can be found in the naturalistic world. Nevertheless, as Moore argued, ‘good’ and ‘evil’ are non-natural properties, which cannot be derived by nature. Therefore, the open question argument defeats the ethical naturalist position because it questions whether the natural properties being defined as ‘good’ or ‘evil’ truly have those properties intrinsically within objects in the natural world, such as ‘pop-tarts’ or ‘guitars’. However, we have seen no reason to think so, therefore, ethical naturalism is false.

Furthermore, I believe that Moore’s alternative moral theory, ethical non-naturalism is true. The essence of his theory is that properties such as ‘good’ or ‘evil’ can be known and verified by our moral experience. His moral theory implies that these moral intuitions exist independent of us, moreover, it can be experienced in the same way we experience the natural world. The open question argument would not work on ethical non-naturalism because the properties called into question exist independently of the natural world, in that, they are non-natural properties. In this respect, ethical non-naturalism should be held rather than ethical naturalism


  1. Moore. G.E. 1988. “Principia Ethica. Prometheus Books. Buffalo, New York.
  2. Palmer, Michael. (1995).Moral Problems: A Coursebook “ (Kindle Locations 2488-2490). University of Toronto Press. Kindle Edition.

Ethics, Philosophy 450

Mohammad Azadpur

December17, 2013

Naturalized Platonism as the Solution to the Euthyphro Dilemma


In this paper, we will be talking about the the euthyphro dilemma between Non-Cognitivism and Moral Platonism. I will believe that McDowell’s Naturalized Platonism provides a solution to the euthyphro dilemma.

Moral Platonism

Moral Platonism asserts that morality does not exist in the natural world, but it exists in a third realm. ‘Good’ and ‘evil’ are features of the world that we can experience. However, morality originates from an outside source that is available for us to experience it. The ‘good’ is available for us, but it cannot be empirically experienced by our sense perceptions. McDowell believes that there is a reliable rail that one can hold that will guide a person to the ‘good’. (1) McDowell finds this moral theory unsettling because he believes that morality does not only exists outside of us, but we can also find the connection between meaning and truth without them from ourselves. (1)


Non-cognitivism holds the position that there are no objective moral facts or properties, and we make our own interpretation of morality. A non-cognitivist’s approaches terms such as ‘bad’ or ‘good‘ with the belief that they really do not communicate any true or false values. Moreover, these terms only represent human expressions of our emotions to behaviors. For example, on this view, ethical statements such as, “Hitler was truly evil for what he did to the Jews”, does not really mean that, “Hitler was truly evil”. Nor does the statement, “Jesus was a good man”, really denotes that “Jesus was a good man”. The non-cognitivist’s interpretation of these two statements are indifferent, since these two ethical statement are empty of value, in that, there are no objective or absolute good or evil to be derived from these statements. On the contrary, the non-cognitivist assigns meaning to things, but they don’t believe that an objective moral standard does exist. McDowell is not content with this moral theory because he believes that morality also does exist outside of us and we have the ability to choose how to deal with it. Therefore, he proposes his own moral theory to solve the euthyphro dilemma between non-cognitivism and moral platonism.

Naturalized Platonism

McDowell believes that meaning can be discovered as long as we decide to pursue it. McDowell’s account of naturalized platonism shows that there is a middle ground between moral platonism and non-cognitivism, and there is no need to oscillate between the two. He holds that morality can be interpreted in the world and it can be found and experienced by us.

McDowell writes, “A kind person has a reliable sensitivity to a certain sort of requirement that situations impose on behavior… [and] knows what it is like to be confronted with a requirement of kindness. The sensitivity is, we might say, a sort of perceptual capacity.” (3) On naturalized platonism, morality can be discovered and we can have a moral sensitivity to them and have the ability to interpret and shape them to our own liking. To illustrate, we can manipulate the ‘rails’ that exists that can help guide us to the ‘good’, and create our own paths, and ultimately, we will reach the same destination. Another illustration is that morality is like finding a cave full of gems that we can freely select from, and the gems will still be there, but we ultimately choose which gems we want to pick. In this two analogies, the morality exists outside of us and we know how to respond and interact with it. The dilemma seems that “[Non-Cognitivism] is the only alternatives to a full-blown moral platonism. But in the logical case, we should not suppose that recoiling from platonism commits us to some kind of reduction of the felt hardness of the logical ‘must’ to the urging of our own desires.” (1) On the contrary, I believe that that naturalized platonism successfully provides us with an alternative moral theory that helps us escape the euthyphro dilemma. The two other alternatives, which are moral platonism and non-cognitivism leaves us with two different extreme interpretations of where morality stems from. Naturalized platonism bridges or marriages the two moral theories and harmonizes both of their claims, which are: morality exists outside of us and we can choose to how to act upon them.

Murdoch’s Support

Murdoch adds to McDowell’s naturalized platonism by explaining that we can investigate and unearth values and morals. Murdoch believes that goodness can be found only if we choose to explore it. To illustrate, ‘Goodness’ has many levels that one can discover as one willingly chooses to dig and excavate new territories of it.  We must choose to remove the veil over our consciousness in order to find the Good that is out there. As Murdoch writes, “Goodness is connected with the attempt to see the unself, to see and to respond to the real world in the light of a virtuous consciousness.” (2) We only have to take the step to go out and find it.


As we have seen, the consequences of moral platonism and non-cognitivism are too extreme to provide for a good moral theory. Moral platonism expresses that the ‘good’ exist separately outside of the world and apart from humanity, whereas non-cognitivism states that the ‘good’ does not exist, and that we just create ideas of the ‘good’ without having actual ethical value. Naturalized platonism provides us with a middle ground by showing that morality exist externally from us and we have the ability to interact with it as we choose.


  1. McDowell, John. 1981. “ V Non-Cognitivism and Rule-Following”. Wittgenstein: to Follow a Rule. Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, Boston and Henley.
  2. Murdoch, Iris. 1970. “The Sovereignty of Good Over Other Concepts”.
  3. Palmer, Michael. (1995).Moral Problems: A Coursebook “ (Kindle Locations 2488-2490). University of Toronto Press. Kindle Edition.
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