19 (2):199–213 (2006
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.