Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Rowe on the Naturalistic Fallacy

Jon Rowe has a fascinating couple of posts up about the naturalistic fallacy (also called the is/ought fallacy), natural law, natural rights, and whether public laws should regulate private morality. I hope to return to this subject and give some of my own thoughts when I have more time, but I urge you all to read his thoughts on the matter for now.


  1. #1 Jon Rowe
    November 18, 2004

    Thanks. I don’t have any formal training in philosophy and am more interested in understanding the Enlightenment philosophy that founds this nation, and how it ought to apply to the present day.

    In the first post, I may have overused the term “postmodern”….I think I remember reading in The Closing of the American Mind, Bloom arguing that the Enlightenment eventually led to Nietzsche (even though Nietzsche railed against the Enlightenment)…that it was the Enlightenment that ended up debunking both God and Nature, hence leading the way to post-modern thinkers like Nietzsche.

    I don’t know though. I’m sure there are people much more learned that can clarify some of these things.

  2. #2 raj
    November 19, 2004

    Jeez, not more “natural law” silliness.

    BTW, since Rowe does not admit comments, I would question here his statement “But Nietzsche, the originator of postmodernism, was a right-winger.”

    Oh, really? A “right-winger”?

  3. #3 Jim Anderson
    November 19, 2004


    Just to clarify, Rowe does entertain comments. He just doesn’t make it easy.

    “Yet another social commentary blog by a libertarian lawyer and college professor. Email your questions or comments to rowjonathan@aol.com

  4. #4 Jon Rowe
    November 19, 2004


    I incorporated your (the postmodern) critique of natural law when I wrote,

    “Moreover, the postmoderns can counter that this dispute between traditionalists and modern natural lawists is meaningless; our founders may have appealed to universal principles of natural law and natural rights; but in doing so they appealed to something that didn’t exist. So let’s accept that and move on.”

    As you can see, I take the critique seriously (I don’t claim that I can refute it. However, since this nation was founded on, “the laws of nature and nature’s God,” I think you need equally to take this proposition seriously.

    In the end, this is how I square my uncertainty:

    “My own position is that I am predisposed towards the Modern Enlightenment view of Nature. But I’m not sure if I can use reason to “bridge” the is/ought gap. So if I am going to start with a moral premise in order to arrive at a moral conclusion regarding where we derive our public policy, the unquestioned premise that I start with is this:

    We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. –That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed….”

  5. #5 Jon Rowe
    November 19, 2004

    Yes. I consider Nietzsche to be a right-winger. Why? I associate egalitarianism with the Left. And Nietzsche was the most inegalitarian philosopher, bar none!

  6. #6 raj
    November 20, 2004

    Jon Rowe at November 19, 2004 12:14 PM

    Yes. I consider Nietzsche to be a right-winger. Why? I associate egalitarianism with the Left. And Nietzsche was the most inegalitarian philosopher, bar none!

    If you insist. I don’t purport to be an expert on Nietzsche, or on much of what passes for philosophy, for that matter. The only one of Nietzche’s work that I have read is Also Sprach Zarathustra–in the original German. But it is my understanding that much of Nietzsche’s philosophy (as opposed to that of his sister, the extreme anti-semite who adulterated Nietzsche’s philosophy after his death) was directed to the relationship between Man and God. From what I have read, in Nietzsche’s philosophy, regarding Mensch and Uebermensch (Man and Superman, and, sorry, I don’t know how to do Umlauts here–the “Ue” should be “U” with Umlaut), unlike the “Mensch”–the man–the Uebermensch is someone who does not need a “God” to provide him with moral direction–he can derive it himself from his own rationality. That was the basis for Nietzsche’s philosophy. As far as I can tell.

    Also Sprach Zarathustra does contain the line “Gott ist tot”–God is dead. In context of the book, the purpose of the line is clear. It is as I described above. But it is interesting that the line also appeared in one of Nietzsche’s earlier works–“Die fröhliche Wissenschaft” (I think that should be translated “the merry science,” but I have seen other translations). In that book, he wrote:

    Gott ist tot!
    Gott bleibt tot:
    Und wir haben ihn getötet!
    Wie trösten wir uns, die Mörder aller Mörder?
    Das Heiligste und Mächtigste, was die Welt bisher besaß,
    es ist unter unsern Messern verblutet – wer wischt dies Blut von uns ab?”

    God is dead!
    God remains dead:
    And we have killed him.!
    How are we to console ourselves, the most murderous of all murderers?
    The most holy and the most powerful that the world up until now occupied,
    Was bloodied by our knives–who is going to wipe the blood from us?

  7. #7 Jon Rowe
    November 21, 2004

    1) Look at the “God is dead” quote. He’s not saying it on a note of triumph, but rather a lament.

    2) Nietzsche, as an atheist, was very pro-God, but anti-Christianity. He loved the OT Jews, b/c they were “strong” characters, but hated Christianity b/c of what he saw as Christianity’s inherent egalitarianism and “softness” (“the meek shall inherit the Earth”; “love thy neighbor”)

    3) Nietzsche thought that Enlightenment rationality killed God, and we were all the worse for it.

    4) Aware that God was dead, man had to create something anew….that where we get into all that “Uebermensch” shit.

    5) Nietzsche was a very anti-rationalists thinker. He didn’t think that rationality was capable of producing morals principles (he didn’t believe in objective morality) or strong vibrant cultures. For that we needed “authentic values.” Not true or false values, because all values are inherently relative. Remember, we are now “beyond Good and Evil.” But “authentic values.” And here’s where we get to the inegalitarianism….

    6) Only true “creators” could give us “authentic values.” The overwhelming majority of the populace won’t be able to deliver jack shit. Only those who are “special,” i.e., a “Moses,” or a “Buddha,” or a “Confucius,” or I suppose, even a “Jesus” or “Mohammed” were capable of producing values that meant anything.

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