What is natural about foot's ethical naturalism?

Ratio 22 (3):308-321 (2009)
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Abstract

Philippa Foot's Natural Goodness is in the midst of a cool reception. It appears that this is due to the fact that Foot's naturalism draws on a picture of the biological world at odds with the view embraced by most scientists and philosophers. Foot's readers commonly assume that the account of the biological world that she must want to adhere to, and that she nevertheless mistakenly departs from, is the account offered by contemporary neo-Darwinian biological sciences. But as is evident in her notion of function, Foot does not employ an evolutionary view of the biological world. I will attempt to show, first, that it is for good reason that Foot is not operating with an evolutionary view of function; her views do not aim to unseat evolutionary views of function, but instead simply have quite different theoretical goals. Second, I aim to underline the importance to Foot's naturalism of the fact that we are practically reasoning creatures. The profundity of Foot's ethical naturalism rests in how she approaches our nature as practically reasoning creatures. In this aspect of Foot's thought, there is a significant Kantian strain that is surprising to find in someone who calls herself an ethical naturalist. 1.

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John Hacker-Wright
University of Guelph

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