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This discussion is motivated by both my sympathy with Aristotle's meta-ethics and my problems with certain elements of his ethics. I consider naturalist cognitivism sound. Ethics has to do with the nature of the being to which the principles, virtues, guidelines to action or what have you, apply. When we judge something good, we do so because we know what kind of thing it is and then check whether it is fully consistent with the implications of its nature. So a tomato is a good one if it is as fully developed in its essential respects as possible. With human beings, too, they are good ones of their kind if their essential or central potentialities are fully realized in their particular circumstances. That seems like a very promising way to tell whether something is good or bad or mediocre, despite a good deal of derision the approach has received throughout the history of ideas. Though Aristotle's meta-ethics has much going for it, there are some liabilities that arise from how he establishes the nature of the human good, namely, by reference to the distinctive human essence, not human nature itself. Because of this Aristotle stresses rationality, not being a rational animal, as normatively central in his philosophy. In consequence, he can favor at least a certain type of slavery and entertains certain misguided notions about the proper place of women. And there is also his conception of wealth seeking as of merely instrumental value, not capable of being a virtuous pursuit.

Politics & Current Events
January 1
Ludwig von Mises Institute
The Gale Group, Inc., a Delaware corporation and an affiliate of Cengage Learning, Inc.

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