Natural, Artifactual, and Moral Goodness

The Journal of Ethics 21 (3):291-307 (2017)
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Abstract

In Natural Goodness, Philippa Foot aims to provide an account of moral evaluation that is both naturalistic and cognitivist. She argues that moral evaluation is a variety of natural evaluation in the sense that moral judgments of human action and character have the same “grammar” or “conceptual structure” as natural judgments of the goodness of plants and animals. We argue that Foot’s naturalist project can succeed, but not in the way she envisions, because her central thesis that moral evaluation is a variety of natural evaluation is not entirely correct. We show that both moral and natural evaluation are species of kind evaluation, which encompasses moral, natural, and artifact evaluation. Kind evaluation is a form of evaluation, according to which things are evaluated qua members of a kind, in such a way that the kind into which something is classified informs the standards of evaluation for things of that kind. Because the source of the normative standards for moral evaluation is different from the source of the normative standards for natural evaluation, moral evaluation is not a species of natural evaluation. However, both are varieties of kind evaluation. This account of moral evaluation as a variety of kind evaluation is still an effective response to non-naturalism and to non-cognitivism.

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Author Profiles

Judith Crane
Southern Illinois University Edwardsville
Ronald Sandler
Northeastern University

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