Natural goodness and natural evil

Ratio 19 (2):199–213 (2006)
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In Natural Goodness Philippa Foot gives an analysis of the concepts we use to describe the characteristics of living things. She suggests that we describe them in functional terms, and this allows us to judge organisms as good or defective depending on how well they perform their distinctive functions. Foot claims that we can judge intentional human actions in the same way: the virtues contribute in obvious ways to good human functioning, and this provides us with grounds for making moral judgements. This paper criticises Foot’s argument by challenging her notion of function. I argue that the type of judgement she makes about living things requires an evolutionary biological account of function. However, such an account would render her meta-ethical claims implausible, since it is unlikely that human beings are adapted to be maximally virtuous. I conclude that Foot is wrong about the logical structure of our judgements of human action.


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Author's Profile

Joseph Millum
University of St. Andrews

Citations of this work

Natural goodness without natural history.Parisa Moosavi - 2022 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research:78-100.
Ethical Naturalism and the Constitution of Agency.John Hacker-Wright - 2012 - Journal of Value Inquiry 46 (1):13-23.
Natural goodness without natural history.Parisa Moosavi - 2022 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 104 (1):78-100.
Aristotelian Naturalism vs. Mutants, Aliens and the Great Red Dragon.Scott Woodcock - 2018 - American Philosophical Quarterly 55 (4):313-328.
Neo-Aristotelian Naturalism and the Indeterminacy Objection.Scott Woodcock - 2015 - International Journal of Philosophical Studies 23 (1):20-41.

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References found in this work

The representation of life.Michael Thompson - 1987 - In Rosalind Hursthouse, Gavin Lawrence & Warren Quinn (eds.), Virtues and Reasons. Clarendon Press. pp. 247--296.

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