Aristotelian theory, as found in Michael Thompson and Philippa Foot, claims that to be good is to be good as a member of that kind. Moreover, Foot argues in effect that goodness admits of only the kind-based sort, obtaining solely in virtue of something’s satisfying kind-based standards. However, I contend that something can satisfy kind-relative standards but nonetheless be bad—I propose a hypothetical Ebola-like microbe that meets its kind-standards of being destructive for its own sake, but it would plausibly be (...) bad for doing so. In defending my counterexample, I respond to the Aristotelian contention that evaluations should only be made from “within” the standpoint of a particular lifeform conception, rather than an “external” one from which that kind itself can be judged to be bad. (shrink)
Neo-Aristotelian naturalism purports to explain morality in terms of human nature, while maintaining that the relevant aspects of human nature cannot be known scientifically. This has led some to conclude that neo-Aristotelian naturalism is not a form of ethical naturalism in the standard, metaphysical sense. In this paper, I argue that neo-Aristotelian naturalism is in fact a standard form of ethical naturalism that is committed to metaphysical naturalism about moral truths and presents a distinctive and underappreciated argument for it. I (...) reconstruct the neo-Aristotelian argument for ethical naturalism in terms of a continuity between the ethical domain and the natural domain of life. I argue that clarifying the meta-ethical import of neo-Aristotelian naturalism not only helps to situate it among other positions in meta-ethics, but also facilitates better critical engagement with the view. (shrink)
Robert Adams defends a platonic account of goodness, understood as excellence, claiming that there exists a platonic good that all other good things must resemble, identifying the Good with God. Mark Murphy agrees, but argues that this platonic account is in need of Aristotelian supplementation, as resemblance must take into account a thing’s kind-membership. While this article will accept something like Murphy’s account of goodness, it will further develop its details and support. Without relying on theistic premises, I show that (...) the metaphysical status of an individual’s goodness consists in resemblance with the platonic good. As for the distinct question of what that goodness holds in virtue of, I conclude it holds in virtue of exactly: the thing’s own properties, those properties being such as to satisfy its kind-based standards, and those K-standards resembling the platonic good. I then develop an account of how K-standards resemble the platonic good: The K-standards resemble it firstly with respect to requiring activities, as the platonic good will be posited to be active, and must resemble it secondly also at the level of what teleology those activities are directed towards. I also motivate the need for a third respect of resemblance, to be developed in future work. The article ends with a discussion of the nature of the platonic good. (shrink)
According to neo-Aristotelian ethical naturalism, moral goodness is an instance of natural goodness, a kind of normativity supposedly already present in nature in the biological realm of non-human living things. Proponents of this view appeal to Michael Thompson’s conception of a life-form--the form of a living organism--to give an account of natural goodness. However, although neo-Aristotelians call themselves naturalists, they hardly ever consult the science of biology to defend their commitments regarding biological organisms. This has led many critics to argue (...) that the neo-Aristotelian account of natural normativity is out of touch with the findings of modern evolutionary biology. One line of response to this objection, presented by John Hacker-Wright and Micah Lott, claims that the neo-Aristotelian concept of a living organism has to be presupposed in evolutionary biology as long as organisms are the subjects of evolutionary explanation. In this paper, I examine this response by tracing the concept of organism in modern evolutionary biology. I first argue that the Modern Synthesis theory of evolution, which understands evolution as change in gene frequencies within a population, does not presuppose the relevant concept of organism. I then explore an alternative view of evolution that has emerged in the past twenty years from advances in evolutionary developmental biology. I argue that this so called ‘evo-devo’ approach makes room for an explanatory concept of organism that can be reconciled with the neo-Aristotelian view. Moreover, I argue that although the explanatory role of the concept of organism in evolutionary biology is still contentious, the well-established role of this concept in developmental biology can be used to defend the biological commitments of neo-Aristotelian naturalism. (shrink)
Philippa Foot has for many years been one of the most distinctive and influential thinkers in moral philosophy. Long dissatisfied with the moral theories of her contemporaries, she has gradually evolved a theory of her own that is radically opposed not only to emotivism and prescriptivism but also to the whole subjectivist, anti-naturalist movement deriving from David Hume. Dissatisfied with both Kantian and utilitarian ethics, she claims to have isolated a special form of evaluation that predicates goodness and defect only (...) to living things considered as such; she finds this form of evaluation in moral judgements. Her vivid discussion covers topics such as practical rationality, erring conscience, and the relation between virtue and happiness, ending with a critique of Nietzsche's immoralism. This long-awaited book exposes a highly original approach to moral philosophy and represents a fundamental break from the assumptions of recent debates. Foot challenges many prominent philosophical arguments and attitudes; but hers is a work full of life and feeling, written for anyone intrigued by the deepest questions about goodness and human. (shrink)
"Foot stands out among contemporary ethical theorists because of her conviction that virtues and vices are more central ethical notions than rights, duties, justice, or consequences--the primary focus of most other contemporary moral theorists....[These] essays embody to some extent her commitment to an ethics of virtue. Foot's style is straightforward and readable, her arguments subtle..."--Choice.