John Hacker-Wright
University of Guelph
The central idea of Philippa Foot’s Natural Goodness is that moral judgments belong to the same logical kind of judgments as those that attribute natural goodness and defect to plants and animals. But moral judgments focus on a subset of human powers that play a special role in our lives as rational animals, namely, reason, will, and desire. These powers play a central role in properly human actions: those actions in which we go for something that we see and understand as good. Many readers of Foot resolutely ignore what she says about the human good being sui generis and obstinately continue to read her as advocating a version of naturalism grounded in empirical study of human nature. One might wonder how else it could count as a naturalistic view unless we could square the view with nature as studied by the empirical sciences. In this paper, I propose a metaphysical response to this question: help can come from turning to recent defenses of Aristotelian essentialism. Foot’s naturalism can square with nature as interpreted through the lens of Aristotelian essentialism. On such a view, the virtues are perfections of human powers including reason, will, and desire.
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DOI 10.1017/s1358246119000250
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