Naturalization of Ethics and Moral


  • Anna Estany Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona



naturalization, ethics, morals, naturalism, moral psychology


The approach to issues such as good and evil from philosophy leads us to specify what is understood by ethics and morals. Canonically, ethics is a branch of philosophy that studies and systematizes these concepts and aims to rationally define what constitutes a good or virtuous act, regardless of the culture in which it is framed. Morality is defined as the set of norms that govern the behavior of people who are part of a given society, thus contributing to the maintenance of stability and social structure. Based on these definitions, naturalization consists of seeking foundations in the empirical sciences to justify moral principles. The objective of this work is to see to what extent science can contribute knowledge that supports ethics and moral principles, a project based on the naturalization of philosophy, questioning any apriorism that ignores science. First, the naturalizing program and its main variants in philosophy will be examined. Second, two proposals from the philosophy of science that can be framed in naturalism will be analyzed, namely: Philip Kitcher and Patricia S. Churchland. Next, some of the main theses that provide scientific explanation of human behavior from the point of view of moral virtues will be addressed.


Bandura, A. (2016). Moral disengagement: how people do harm and live with themselves. New York: Macmillan.

Churchland, P. S. (1986). Neurophilosophy: Toward A Unified Science of the Mind-Brain. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press.

Churchland, P. S. (2019). El cerebro moral. Lo que la neurociencia nos cuenta sobre la moralidad. Barcelona: Editorial Planeta.

Damasio, A. (1994). Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason,and the Human Brain. New York: Avon Books.

Damasio, A. (1999). The Feeling of What Happens: Body and Emotion in the Making of Consciousness. San Diego, California: Harcourt Brace & Company.

Estany, A. (2000). The thesis of theory-laden observation in the light of cognitive psychology. Philosophy of Science, 68(2), 203-217.

Estany, A. (2001). La fascinación por el saber. Introducción a la teoría del conocimiento. Barcelona: Editorial Crítica.

Fernández, T., Tamaro, E. (2004). Biografía de Albert Bandura. En Biografías y Vidas. La enciclopedia biográfica en línea. Barcelona, España.

Fleming, J. S. (2005). Piaget, Kohlberg, Gilligan and others on moral development. Psychological Perspectives on Human Development.

Giere, R. (1988). Explaining science. A cognitive approach. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Gilligan, C. (1982). In a different voice: Psychological theory and women’s development. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.

Greene, J., Haidt, J. (2002). How (and where) does moral judgment work? Trends in cognitive sciences, 6(12), 517-523.

Haidt, J. (2007). The new synthesis in moral psychology. Science, 316(5827), 998-1002.

Haidt, J. (2019). La mente de los justos. Por qué la política y la religión dividen a la gente sensata. Barcelona: Editorial Planeta.

Hull, D. (1988). Science as a process. Chicago, Illinois: University of Chicago Press.

Hutchins, E. (1995). Cognition in the wild. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press.

Kitcher, P. S. (2011). The ethical project. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.

Kitcher, P. W. (1992). Freud’s Dream: A Complete Interdisciplinary Science of Mind. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Bradford Books/M.I.T. Press.

Kohlberg, L. (1976). Moral Stages and Moralization: The Cognitive-Developmental Approach. En T. Lickona (Ed.), Moral Development and Behavior: Theory, Research, and Social Issues, pp. 31-53. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

Laudan, L. (1978). Progress and its problems. Towards a theory of scientific growth. Berkeley, California: University of California Press.

Laudan, L. (1984). Science and values. The aims of science and their role in scientific debate. Berkeley, California: University of California Press.

Laudan, L. (1998). Naturalismo normativo y el progreso de la filosofía. En W. González (Ed.), El pensamiento de L. Laudan. Relaciones entre historia de la ciencia y filosofía de la ciencia, pp. 7-60. A Coruña: Unversidade da Coruña.

Pérez-Delgado, E., Maestre, V., Martí Vilar. M., Samper, P. (1996). Orígenes históricos del libro “El juicio moral en el niño”: sus fuentes históricas y científicas. Revista de Historia de la Psicología, 17(3-4), 135-144.

Piaget, J. (1932). The moral judgment of the child. London: Kegan, Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co.

Putnam, H. (1982). Why reason can’t be naturalized? Synthese, 52, 3-23.

Quine, W. V. (1969). Epistemology naturalized. En Ontological Relativity and Other Essays. New York: Columbia University Press.

Sulloway, F. J. (1979). Freud, biologist of the mind: Beyond the psychoanalytic legend. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.

Thagard, P. (1988) Computational philosophy of science. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Cambridge University Press.

Tomasello, M. (2009). ¿Por qué cooperamos? Con la participación de Carol Dweck, Joan Silk, Brian Skyrms y Elisabeth Spelke. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press.

Toulmin, S. (1977). La comprensión humana I. El uso colectivo y la evolución de los conceptos. Madrid: Alianza.

Wray, K. B. (2002). The Epistemic Significance of Collaborative Research. Philosophy of Science, 69(1), 150-168.


2022-05-30 — Updated on 2022-06-13


How to Cite

Estany, A. (2022). Naturalization of Ethics and Moral. Revista De Humanidades De Valparaíso, (19), 293–312. (Original work published May 30, 2022)



Monographic Section