Simpson Peter Goodness and Nature.pdf

  • Published on

  • View

  • Download

Embed Size (px)


<ul><li><p>Goodness and Nature </p><p>A Defense of Ethical Naturalism and a Critique of its Opponents </p><p>by </p><p>Peter Phillips Simpson </p><p>Graduate Center City University of New York </p><p>To My Parents Sine Quibus Non </p><p> 2005 Peter Simpson </p></li><li><p>Contents </p><p>Contents Acknowledgements xi Citations and Abbreviations xiii Introduction Aims and Procedure of the Book 1 Contemporary Moral Philosophy 4 PART ONE: THE NATURALISTIC FALLACY Chapter 1: Moore: Goodness as Indefinable The Naturalistic Fallacy 11 Idea of Goodness 13 Idea of Nature 28 Ethics and Metaethics 30 Chapter 2: Stevenson: Goodness as Emotive The Rejection of Moore's Cognitivism 35 Cognition and Attitudes 40 Nature of Cognition 47 Attitude to Science 50 Chapter 3: Hare: Goodness as Prescriptive The Contrast with Emotivism 57 Description and Evaluation 59 Imperatives and Choice 64 Freedom and Reason 77 Summary 81 </p><p> vii</p></li><li><p>Contents </p><p>Chapter 4: Critics of Non-Naturalism The Non-Naturalist Ought 83 The Non-Naturalist Good 86 Foot's Cognitive Good 91 The Naturalism of Lovibond and Lee 98 Warnock's Cognitive Hobbesian Good 104 Chapter 5: Historical Origins Review 108 The Modern Vision of 'Realism' 110 The 'Realist' Transformation of Good 116 Kantian Autonomous Morality 121 Summary 129 PART TWO: THE DEFENCE OF NATURALISM Chapter 6: Good and Being Preliminaries 135 The Idea of Being 139 The Idea of Good 148 Natural Desire and Evil 155 Contrast with Non-Naturalism 163 Chapter 7: Nature and the Science of Nature The Study of the Natural 167 Natural Philosophy 168 Modern Mathematical Science 181 Merits of Each 190 Chapter 8: Willing and Thinking The Question Posed 194 The Idea of Will and of the Willed Good 196 Good and Action, or the 'Is' and the 'Ought' 209 The Will and Freedom 218 Chapter 9: Virtue and Wisdom The Need to Ask about the Good Life 229 Nature as a Guide to the Good Life 232 </p><p> viii</p></li><li><p>Contents </p><p> The Universal Life 239 The Ascent towards the Highest 252 Postscript Some Concluding Remarks 261 MacIntyre on Aristotle 263 Finnis and Grisez on Aquinas 266 Bibliography 271 Index 275 </p><p> ix</p></li><li><p>Acknowledgements Many people have assisted me in the writing of this book. First and foremost of these is Harry Lesser. For many years, both during and after my time as a graduate student at the University of Manchester in England, he was my principal philosophical mentor as well as a friend, and regularly displayed the qualities and discharged the duties of both. His generous encouragement and patient criticism as my doctoral advisor first enabled me to articulate my inchoate ideas into a coherent and ordered form. Without him it would have been impossible to complete the first stages through which this work went as quickly or as well. I would also like to thank Professor S.R.L. Clark who, as doctoral examiner, subjected the results of those first stages to some searching criticisms. I have reworked substantial parts of the last few chapters as a response to what he then said. His own writings, I found, were a particular stimulus to that end. </p><p>In a more general way I would like to thank the many friends who sustained and supported me over the years while this work was in preparation. Those in Manchester where I spent three years as a doctoral student; those in University College Dublin where I spent two years as a young philo-sophy lecturer; and finally those in Washington where I have currently made my home. Without any of them, this work would either not have been completed, or not completed as well and with as much expedition. </p><p>Some of the material in this book is already due to appear elsewhere. Chapter 5 contains material to be published under the heading of Autonomous Morality and the Idea of </p><p> xi</p></li><li><p>the Noble in Interpretation, vol.14, 2-3, 1986. Chapters 6 and 8 contain material to be published under the title of St. Thomas on the Naturalistic Fallacy in a forthcoming issue of the Thomist. Chapters 7 and 9 contain material to be published under the heading of Politics and Human Nature in The American Journal of Jurisprudence, December 1986. I am grateful to the editors of each of these journals for permission to use this material again. </p><p>Finally I must express a special note of thanks to my friend Pamela Fenty. She kindly proof-read the whole manu-script, and offered innumerable editorial suggestions which saved me from many stylistic as well as material deficiencies. </p><p>To the extent this book has value, all these friends and critics must share in the credit. The faults and imperfections that remain are my own responsibility. </p><p>This book is, however, not dedicated to any of these friends and critics, but to my parents. Without their unfailing support and guidance, moral, spiritual and financial, over many years, very little at all would have been possible. To them the due of thanks can be acknowledged, but never fully paid. Washington, D.C. September, 1986. </p><p> xii</p></li><li><p>Citations and Abbreviations In citing modern works I have followed the convention of giv-ing the year of publication and the page number in that order. Which book is being referred to will be found in the Biblio-graphy under the relevant author's name. Sometimes I have not given the year but only the page number. I have done this particularly in the earlier chapters when one book by one author was the main object of attention. I have only done it elsewhere when it will be obvious from the context which book is being referred to. In citing pre-modern works, I have given the title or some readily intelligible abbreviation, and then the page number of the edition referred to in the Biblio-graphy, or the number of the relevant sections or parts into which the book is standardly divided. Abbreviations that may not be readily intelligible are listed here. Aristotle APo Analytica Posteriora de An De Anima EE Ethica Eudemia EN Ethica Nicomachea MM Magna Moralia Meta Metaphysica PA De Partibus Animalium Ph Physica Po Poetica Pol Politica SE Sophistici Elenchi </p><p> xiii</p></li><li><p>Aspasius ENC In Ethica Nicomachea Commentaria Avicenna M Metaphysica Kant AA The Prussian Academy Edition of the Complete </p><p>Works (Akademieausgabe) B The Second Edition of the First Critique Thomas Aquinas CE Commentary on Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics CM Commentary on Aristotles Metaphysics CP Commentary on Aristotles Physics DM De Malo DP De Potentia DPN De Principiis Naturae DV De Veritate ST Summa Theologiae </p><p> xiv</p></li><li><p>Introduction </p><p>Introduction </p><p>AIMS AND PROCEDURE OF THE BOOK This book is concerned with the question of realism or, more accurately, of naturalism in ethics. Naturalism is the view that good and bad, right and wrong, are real matters of fact or knowledge that can in principle be determined by some refer-ence to nature. As I shall argue shortly, this is perhaps the most important question that any contemporary student of moral philosophy has to face. This books search for a solu-tion to its difficulties, however, has required going outside the limits within which that question was originally posed. In fact, it is one of the principal messages of the book that it is these limits themselves that constitute most of the problem. </p><p>The effort to think beyond the limits of modern moral philosophy has, in my case at any rate, proved to be also the effort to think back into an ancient tradition of philosophy which flourished for so many centuries beforehand, and which modern philosophers have, to their own detriment I believe, rejected or ignored. For this reason this book is an un-ashamedly ancient book. It might even be called an essay in discarded ideas. There are, of course, differing views about how to approach the problems raised by modern moral philosophy. It is my conviction that a return to ancient ideas is the most helpful and the most fruitful. This, I hope, will become evident from the way my argument develops from the first to the final chapters. The ancient tradition that I am fol-lowing provides, I contend, just the concepts and distinctions necessary to resolve the puzzles that have gathered themselves </p><p> 1</p></li><li><p>Introduction </p><p>about the question of naturalism. These puzzles are genuine and philosophically instructive; that is why they need to be faced and answered squarely. To argue round them, or to dismiss them before getting to grips with them, is to run the risk of hindering philosophical understanding. That, indeed, is the principal reason why the early chapters of this book are concerned with writings that appeared and provoked most controversy several decades ago. For this I make no apology; it is in these writings that the puzzles find their most instructive, not to say classic, expression. </p><p>Of course there is more than one ancient tradition. The tradition that I follow here is the one that leads from Plato and Aristotle to Aquinas. When I use, in the chapters that follow, such expressions as the tradition, or the older thinkers, or something else of the same sort, it is this tradition and the thinkers who formed it that I have in mind. One might object that Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas and the rest do not constitute a single tradition. The differences between them, especially between Plato and Aristotle on the one hand and Aquinas on the other, are profound and perhaps insurmountable (Jaffa, 1952; Strauss, 1953: ch.4). That there are differences, and that some of them are profound, is clear. But there are also simil-arities, and some of these too are profound. This is certainly the case in those respects in which I treat these authors as one, namely over the issue of naturalism or the knowability of good. But even were this last claim questionable, that would make little difference to my contentions. My aim has not been to give a thorough and fully nuanced account of the views of other writers, but to use their insights to understand and solve a problem. Even if not all these insights were equally shared by them, and even if the implications of the insights were not always fully realised by them, that still does not prevent or invalidate the use I have made, either of the insights, or of their implications. Ideas may be discovered by certain authors, but they do not remain those authors exclusive property. They possess an independence of their own. Other thinkers may adopt them and follow them through in ways that the original authors may not have thought about (cf. Aristotle, SE: 184b3-8) </p><p> 2</p></li><li><p>Introduction </p><p>But however that may be, the insights I have culled from these authors justify themselves in practice. To each point or problem that emerges in Part One of this book as decisive in the generation and formation of the debate about naturalism, there is an answer given in Part Two that is developed from one of these insights. This is so of the idea of good itself (chapter 6), of the idea of nature (chapter 7), of the relationship between thought and will (chapter 8), and of the very idea of a human good at all (chapter 9). There thus exists, and is meant to exist, something of a symmetry between each Part of the book. The problems uncovered in Part One are each answered in turn in Part Two. The division of the final chapters (chapters 6-9), in fact, follows the number and kind of problems that emerge during the investigation undertaken in the earlier ones (chapters 1-5). </p><p>The course of research for this book has naturally led me through the writings of many thinkers past and present. I have, perhaps, not discussed all those whom I might have discussed in this context, nor examined all the works that might in some way have been relevant. But I have, I contend, discussed those writers and examined those works that were necessary for my purpose. As my aim was never to give an exhaustive account of opinions, but to understand a problem, the opinions I examined and the extent to which I examined them were, as the ensuing chapters will, I trust, show, deter-mined by the needs of that understanding. The proper function of philosophy is to find out the truth as far as one can, not, or not just, to learn what other people think. </p><p>This should be enough to explain my aims and procedure in this book. But I said at the beginning that the topic of it is naturalism, and that this is perhaps the most im-portant question that contemporary students of moral philo-sophy can face. This claim needs some justification and explanation. I can do this best, I think, if I give a brief account of the role the question has played in recent moral philo-sophising. </p><p> 3</p></li><li><p>Introduction </p><p> CONTEMPORARY MORAL PHILOSOPHY </p><p> Diogenes Laertius has preserved for us the story of how Xenophon first met Socrates. They say, he writes, that when Socrates met him in a narrow place he put his stick across it and prevented him passing by, asking him where all kinds of necessary things were sold. When Xenophon answered, he asked him again where people became good and virtuous. As Xenophon was perplexed, Socrates said, Follow me then, and learn. And from that time forth Xenophon became a disciple of Socrates (Lives of the Philosophers: II.48). </p><p>Socrates is regarded as the first philosopher seriously to engage in moral and political philosophy, and his influence on subsequent thought, as this has been mediated in particular by Plato, has been immense. Nevertheless, if during the earlier part of this century one had approached most of those who had, in the English-speaking world at any rate, inherited from Socrates the title of moral philosophers, it is unlikely that one would have been asked the same sort of question. For these philosophers held, or many of them held, that the question was not one to which it was proper for them, as philosophers, to give an answer. The task of moral philosophy was not to teach moral truths or to instruct one how to live, but rather to clarify the logic of moral concepts or the nature of moral discourse. Moral philosophy was not about what people ought to do; it was about what they are doing when they talk about what they ought to do (Hudson, 1970: 1). But there was a price to be paid for this change in the conception of moral philosophy. Substantive moral questions ceased to be either asked or answered; they appeared only by courtesy, as illustrations, and were held away at arms length. Moral philo-sophy gave the impression that all the important issues off the page somewhere and had managed to find an original way of being boring which by not discus-sing moral issues at all (Williams, 1972: 9-10; also Wilson, 1961: 1ff.). </p><p>Fortunately moral philosophy this century has not exclusively been of the sort just described. Not all pr...</p></li></ul>