Philosophia 42 (3):761-777 (2014)

Micah Lott
Boston College
The central claim of Aristotelian naturalism is that moral goodness is a kind of species-specific natural goodness. Aristotelian naturalism has recently enjoyed a resurgence in the work of philosophers such as Philippa Foot, Rosalind Hursthouse, and Michael Thompson. However, any view that takes moral goodness to be a type of natural goodness faces a challenge: Granting that moral goodness is natural goodness for human beings, why should we care about being good human beings? Given that we are rational creatures who can ‘step back’ from our nature, why should we see human nature as authoritative for us? This is the authority-of-nature challenge. In this essay, I state this challenge clearly, identify its deep motivation, and distinguish it from other criticisms of Aristotelian naturalism. I also articulate what I consider the best response, which I term the practical reason response. This response, however, exposes Aristotelian naturalism to a new criticism – that it has abandoned the naturalist claim that moral goodness is species-specific natural goodness. Thus, I argue, Aristotelian naturalists appear to face a dilemma: Either they cannot answer the authority-of-nature challenge, or in meeting the challenge they must abandon naturalism. Aristotelian naturalists might overcome this dilemma, but doing so is harder than some Aristotelians have supposed. In the final sections of the paper, I examine the difficulties in overcoming the dilemma, and I suggest ways that Aristotelians might answer the authority-of-nature challenge while preserving naturalism
Keywords Aristotelianism  Natural goodness  Practical reason  Human nature  Foot  Hursthouse
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1007/s11406-014-9540-z
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 70,039
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

The Sources of Normativity.Christine M. Korsgaard - 1996 - Cambridge University Press.
On Virtue Ethics.Rosalind Hursthouse - 1999 - Oxford University Press.
Natural Goodness.Philippa Foot - 2001 - Oxford University Press.

View all 21 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

The Value of Thinking and the Normativity of Logic.Manish Oza - 2020 - Philosophers' Imprint 20 (25):1-23.
Aristotelian Naturalism Vs. Mutants, Aliens and the Great Red Dragon.Scott Woodcock - 2018 - American Philosophical Quarterly 55 (4):313-328.
Foot Without Achilles’ Heel.Ulf Hlobil & Katharina Nieswandt - 2019 - Philosophia 47 (5):1501-1515.

View all 12 citations / Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Goodness and Moral Twin Earth.Christopher Freiman - 2014 - Erkenntnis 79 (2):445-460.
Getting On in a Varied World.Chrisoula Andreou - 2006 - Social Theory and Practice 32 (1):61-73.
Natural Goodness and Natural Evil.Joseph Millum - 2006 - Ratio 19 (2):199–213.
Moral Virtue as Knowledge of Human Form.Micah Lott - 2012 - Social Theory and Practice 38 (3):407-431.
Virtue and Nature.Christopher W. Gowans - 2008 - Social Philosophy and Policy 25 (1):28-55.
Natural Theology In an Ecological Mode.Mark Wynn - 1999 - Faith and Philosophy 16 (1):27-42.


Added to PP index

Total views
201 ( #57,627 of 2,506,010 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
10 ( #73,843 of 2,506,010 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes