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Have Elephant Seals Refuted Aristotle? 
Nature, Function, and Moral Goodness *

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An influential strand of neo-Aristotelianism, represented by writers such as Philippa Foot, holds that moral virtue is a form of natural goodness in human beings, analogous to deep roots in oak trees or keen vision in hawks. Critics, however, have argued that such a view cannot get off the ground, because the neo-Aristotelian account of natural normativity is untenable in light of a Darwinian account of living things. This criticism has been developed most fully by William Fitzpatrick in his book Teleology and the Norms of Nature. In this paper, I defend the neo-Aristotelian account of natural normativity, focusing on Fitzpatrick’s arguments. I argue that a natural goodness view is not impugned by an evolutionary account. Nor can neo-Aristotelian life form judgments be replaced by an evolutionary view of living things.

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/content/journals/10.1163/174552412x625727
2012-01-01
2015-02-28

Affiliations: 1: Department of Philosophy, University of Chicago, 1115 E. 58th Street, Chicago, IL 60637, USA, micahelias@gmail.com

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