Dissertation, The University of Oklahoma (2003)

Stephen Brown
Briar Cliff College
I defend a neo-Aristotelian ethical theory I call "naturalized virtue ethics," or NVE. This is a naturalistic, teleological theory. Human beings are a species of social animal for whom there is a characteristic form of life. An individual human being may be evaluated as a good or bad specimen according to how well that individual realizes the human form of life. To be a good human being, one must possess those traits of character that reliably enable one to achieve the ends of creatures like us. ;In Chapter 1, I present reasons for why we should prefer ethical naturalism. ;In Chapter 2, I discuss what to many is still a contentious issue: natural teleology. NVE is teleological. Teleology, both in ethics and in science, has often been looked upon with suspicion. I argue that the teleology operative in NVE is natural, or naturalizable. NVE is on a metaphysically sound foundation. ;In Chapter 3, I further explicate NVE and show how several of the standard virtues are justified by the lights of NVE. I also show the further applications of the theory to issues of distributive justice and law. These examples provide tests of the descriptive and explanatory adequacy of NVE, a test the theory passes. ;In Chapter 4, I consider the charge that ethical naturalism commits some one or other egregious metaethical mistake. This sort of mistake has been associated variously with the fact/value gap, the is/ought gap, and the naturalistic fallacy. I discuss these issues in their general form and relative to NVE, showing that there are no problems here for NVE. ;In Chapter 5, I place NVE is the space of contemporary virtue theories and also contrast it with eudaimonistic or welfare-based ethics and with evolutionary ethics. NVE is a good-based virtue theory, but it is neither a kind of eudaimonism nor an evolutionary ethics. Considerations of evolution lead us to certain criticisms of ethical theories like NVE. Contra the critics, I show NVE's compatibility with neo-Darwinism. I then suggest further research
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