David McNaughton

B.Phil., University of Oxford
Office 286 Dodd Hall
Office Hours See directory
Email dmcnaughton@fsu.edu
Phone (850) 644-1483
Fax (850) 644-3832
Research Interests Ethics, 18th Century British Moral Philosophy, Philosophy of Religion
Curriculum Vitae

Papers available online

McNaughton, David. "Reparation and Atonement."Religious Studies (Jun., 1992), pp. 129-144.
McNaughton, David. "Why Is So Much Philosophy So Tedious? " Florida Philosophical Review IX (2009), forthcoming.
McNaughton, David and J. Piers Rawling. "Holism about Value" in Challenging Moral Particularism. Eds. M. Lance, M. Potrc, and V. Strahovnik. Routledge: 2008. 116-132.
McNaughton, David and J. Piers Rawling. "Deontology" in Principles of Health Care Ethics. 2nd ed. Eds. R. Ashcroft, A. Dawson, H. Draper, and J. McMillan. Wiley: 2007. 65-72.
McNaughton, David and J. Piers Rawling. "Deontology" in The Oxford Handbook of Ethical Theory. Ed. D. Copp. Oxford: 2006. 424-458.
McNaughton, David and J. Piers Rawling. "Can Scanlon avoid redundancy by passing the buck?"Analysis 63 (2003): 328-331.
McNaughton, David and J. Piers Rawling. "Naturalism and normativity."Supplement to the Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 77 (2003): 23-45.
Garrard, Eve and McNaughton, David. "In Defence of Unconditional Forgiveness."Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 103 (2003): 39-60.
McNaughton, David. "Is God (almost) a consequentialist? Swinburne's moral theory."Religious Studies 38 (2002): 265-281.
McNaughton, David and J. Piers Rawling. "Conditional and conditioned reasons."Utilitas 14 (2002): 240-248.
McNaughton, David and J. Piers Rawling. "Achievement, welfare and consequentialism."Analysis 61 (2001): 156-162.
McNaughton, David and J. Piers Rawling. "Unprincipled ethics" in Moral Particularism. Eds. B. Hooker and M. Little. Oxford: 2000. 256-275.
McNaughton, David and J. Piers Rawling. "On Defending Deontology."Blackwell Publishers Ltd. (1998): 37-54.
McNaughton, David. "British moralists of the eighteenth century: Shaftesbury, Butler, and Price" in S. Brown (ed.) British Philosophy and the Age of Enlightenment, Volume VI of the Routledge History of Philosophy (1996), pp. 203-227.
McNaughton, David. "An Unconnected Heap of Duties?"Philosophical Quarterly 46 (1996): 433-447.
McNaughton, David and J. Piers Rawling. "Value and Agent-Relative Reasons."Utilitas 7 (1995): 31-47.

Biographical Note

My research interests are in ethics, Eighteenth Century Moral Philosophy, and philosophy of religion.

I took my first degree at Newcastle University and took my graduate degree at Oxford. I was appointed Lecturer in Philosophy at Keele in 1970 and also held a number of university administrative posts at Keele, including Chair of the Department, Head of the School of English and Philosophy, Assistant Dean of Students, and Deputy Director of Academic Affairs. I was appointed to a Professorship at Keele in 1996. In 2003 I retired from Keele, and was reincarnated at FSU, where I am now in charge of Graduate Admissions.

One of my ambitions is to work out an ethical theory that will do justice to the complexities and subtleties of our moral experience. Moral Vision (Blackwell, 1988) represents a first step in this direction. Since 1989, I have been working on the logic of moral theories with Piers Rawling. We defend a version of ethical intuitionism (a position I found ludicrously untenable when I started teaching!). While our position differs from that of W.D. Ross in a number of ways, it develops many themes in his work. You can find my discussions of Ross’s Intuitionism in the Blackwell Guide to Ethical Theory and in Shafer-Landau’s Ethical Theory. Since intuitionism is itself a species of deontology, I am interested more generally in formulating and defending that type of moral theory and have published a number of papers with Piers Rawling on that topic. We are now writing a book outlining and defending our overall view in both metaethics and ethical theory.

Even more generally, my view could be seen as developing and defending a version of moral realism which falls within the dominant broadly Platonist tradition in British moral philosophy whose advocates included Samuel Clarke, Shaftesbury, Butler and Price.I was first attracted to moral philosophy because, like Socrates, it seems to me that the most important question we face in life is how best to live. When I applied to read philosophy the first book I read was The Last Days of Socrates, the Penguin collection of Euthyphro, Crito, Apology and Phaedo which confirmed me in my choice. An early influence while I was still at school was C.S. Lewis; indeed, it was reading his Preface to Paradise Lost in High School which first excited my interest in philosophy, though I did not yet know the proper name for the discipline I wished to pursue. Although Lewis is often looked down on by academics, I continue to read him with enjoyment. While he is undoubtedly sometimes guilty of sophistry (as which philosopher is not?) there is much to admire: penetrating psychological insights, an enviable lucidity and clarity of style when tackling even the most difficult topic, an awareness of the complexities of moral experience and, above all, a conviction that philosophy is continuous with life. Once I have completed the book on ethics I am writing with Piers, I plan to write a book on Lewis with Eve Garrard, in hopes that we can persuade people that he is writer who should be taken much more seriously by philosophers.

Unfortunately, the intellectual atmosphere of the 1960s was not favorable to the brand of moral theory to which I was most sympathetic and the arguments seemed, alas, to show that some form of non-cognitivism must be correct. I became a convinced but half-hearted follower of Hare. It was my good fortune, however, to be in the same department as Jonathan Dancy who introduced me to the works of John McDowell (himself in that broad Platonist tradition which encompasses Aristotle). Jonathan and I taught a Special Subject to final year students in meta-ethics for ten years - a cooperative venture from which I benefited greatly – and he persuaded me of the error of my former ways.The result was Moral Vision, a book which defends particularist moral realism.Another increasing influence on me was Iris Murdoch, someone else who kept the flame of Platonism burning when it was deeply unfashionable. Her interests coincided with mine in another respect. My other abiding philosophical interest has been in religion, and I found myself increasingly fascinated by the question of whether, and how far, central ethical concepts, and indeed morality itself, as I conceived of it, can survive if detached from a theistic backdrop. I have recently been working with my former colleague, Eve Garrard, on a series of papers on moral concepts with a strong Christian content, such as forgiveness, hypocrisy, and humility. We have written a short book for the general reader on Forgiveness for Acumen publishing, and hope to write more in this area.

In 1995 I founded the British Society for Ethical Theory, which exists to promote interest in, and discussion of, ethical theory in Britain. I have been particularly pleased by the increasing involvement of graduate students and of overseas philosophers in its activities. That it has been such a success is in no small part due to the efforts of the committee and, in particular, my successors, Jimmy Lenman and, currently, Simon Kirchin.

I am currently editing Joseph Butler’s Sermons for OUP, and hope to write a short book on his ethics and theology.I am a member of St. John’s Episcopal Church, and and the Diocesan Board of Examining Chaplains. My wife Rosa is a lawyer at a State Agency. My son Alex graduated from Leon High School and Harvard, and is now teaching at The Learning Community, a public charter school near Providence, RI, that collaborates with neighboring district schools, particularly on reading programs. My other main interests include:

  • literature, especially the nineteenth century novel and a range of poetry from Spenser to Larkin, and the theatre
  • classical music, especially chamber music, works for piano and/or cello, vocal music, including settings of poems and folk songs, opera and choral music.
  • biography, especially literary biography
  • children's literature, especially Arthur Ransome and C.S. Lewis
  • religion, theology, and spirituality
  • watching, or listening to, cricket
  • fell-walking, especially in my favorite spot, the English Lake District
David on a walk around Derwentwater in the English Lake District
David with his wife Rosa on the summit of a mountain in the English Lake District
David on summit of Red Pike, Wasdale.
Red Summit
Proud Father.
Proud Father


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