Cosmic Outlooks and Neo-Aristotelian Virtue Ethics

International Philosophical Quarterly 55 (2):197-215 (2015)
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I examine Bernard Williams’s forceful challenge that evolutionary science has done away with the sort of teleological worldview that is needed in order to make sense of an Aristotelian virtue ethic perspective. I also consider Rosalind Hursthouse’s response to Williams and argue that it is not sufficient. My main task is to show what is needed in order to meet Williams’s challenge. First, I argue that we need a deeper exploration of the first-personal evaluative standpoint from within our human form of life than we find in Hursthouse’s ethical naturalist perspective. In particular, we need to recognize the important role of “strong evaluation” for identifying what is noblest and best about us as human beings, for this will enable us to address the “mixed bag” problem of human nature. Second, I argue—contra John McDowell’s quietism—that in order to make sense of such a normative account of human nature we must overcome Williams’s tragic cosmic outlook according to which human life is seen as ultimately without meaning and purpose.



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David McPherson
University of Florida

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