Honestum to Goodness

In Heikki Haara & Juhana Toivanen (eds.), Common Good and Self-Interest in Medieval and Early Modern Philosophy. Springer Verlag. pp. 17-29 (2024)
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Abstract

This chapter traces some of the ancient and medieval history of the debate about whether there are distinct and potentially conflicting true goods or genuine tension between the pursuit of self-interest and the pursuit of what has intrinsic value. Much modern moral theory posits that morally good agents are prepared to restrain the pursuit of even their enlightened self-interest when it conflicts with what is intrinsically good or is good for others. This puts Morality at odds with a long Ethical tradition that is especially indebted to Aristotle and his followers and that proposes the ultimate aim of any rational agent to be that agent’s flourishing or happiness. The chapter concludes, pace Elizabeth Anscombe and Alasdair MacIntyre, that while the view embedded in much modern moral theory reached its full development in the context of a theologically infused medieval tradition, which involved Anselm of Canterbury, Peter Abelard and John Duns Scotus, its roots are earlier, and its metaphysical underpinnings are independent of that context.

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Calvin Normore
University of California, Los Angeles

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