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Metaphysical Relations in Metaethics

ByGideon Rosen

This chapter aims to clarify a question that can be vaguely put as follows: How are the normative facts related to the natural facts? As many philosophers have noted, the two domains appear to be distinct (Moore 1903; Enoch 2011; Parfit 2011). Comparing the fact that Sophie morally ought to feed the fish with the fact that the fish will die if she doesn’t feed them, one has the palpable sense, not just that the claims are different, but that they concern categorically distinct subject matters: how things ought to be versus how things are. Of course, this appearance could be misleading. The normative facts could be natural facts in disguise. But however this may be, there is obviously some very close connection between the fact that Sophie ought to feed the fish and the various indisputably natural facts that underlie it. One central problem in metaethics is to say what that connection comes to.