Natural Goodness [Book Review]

Review of Metaphysics 56 (4):874-875 (2003)

Jennifer Welchman
University of Alberta
Natural Goodness is an important new book from Phillippa Foot, a central figure in the revival of ethical naturalism and character-based ethics. A longstanding critic of the emotivist and prescriptivist theories that arose following twentieth-century analytic philosophy’s linguistic turn, Foot attacked reigning versions of noncognitivism according to which moral language and judgment made no meaningful claims about moral agents or their actions but were instead misleading expressions of a speaker’s attitudes. In classic papers such as “Moral Beliefs,” “Virtues and Vices,” and “Morality as a System of Hypothetical Imperatives”, she argued that such accounts misrepresented both the content of moral evaluation and its use. The “logical grammar” of moral evaluation did not support claims that it referred primarily to internal states of particular moral agents. On the contrary, usage indicates that our evaluative judgments are offered and understood as making confirmable claims about the sort of character and lives we have reason to try to achieve. Her new book develops and extends her earlier critical work with a new account of practical rationality and its relation to human good that is meant to show how we can go from descriptive generalizations about human life or flourishing to action-guiding prescriptions that we have reason to adopt even at the cost of substantial personal sacrifice.
Keywords Catholic Tradition  Contemporary Philosophy  General Interest
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ISBN(s) 0034-6632
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