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Natural Goodness 1st Edition

3.9 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0199265473
ISBN-10: 019926547X
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Editorial Reviews

Review


"...an important new book from Phillippa Foot, a central figure in the revival of ethical naturalism and character-based ethics.... Natural Goodness provides a valuable statement of the mature insights of one of recent moral philosophy's major contributors." -- The Review of Metaphysics


"Natural Goodness is an exciting and provoking book, more interesting than most books in moral philosophy....What she has given us both in this book and elsewhere deserves nothing but intellectual and moral gratitude."-- Alasdair MacIntyre, Philosophical Quarterly


"One of the most fascinating ideas in ancient philosophy--that there is a close relation between human happiness and virtue--has been largely neglected in modern philosophy. In this highly significant book, Philippa Foot revives that idea, rooting it in an understanding of human goodness as depending on the nature of our species. In more than one sense, it is a work of great integrity. Beautifully and economically written, and powerfully argued, it will become a classic of modern moral philosophy."--Roger Crisp


About the Author

Philippa Foot is Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at the University of California, Los Angeles, Honourary Fellow of Somerville College, Oxford, and a Fellow of the British Academy.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 136 pages
  • Publisher: Clarendon Press; 1 edition (December 4, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 019926547X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199265473
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 0.5 x 5.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #449,723 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I agree with most everything in this elegant, well-reasoned book. Unfortunately, I think, it will convince no one not already of like mind--and rightly should not.
Foot's thesis is that "good" refers to fulfilling "the life form of the species" to which one belongs. Thus, a tree has good roots if, in the circumstances in which it grows, those roots allow for it to be a good specimen of the sort of tree that it is. Thus "natural good" depends on facts about one's species and the circumstances in which one finds one's self--dissolving the "fact/value distinction." To be a good person, then, is to fulfill the life form of our species under the circumstances in which we find ourselves--allowing that there may be many specific ways of doing this very general thing. As an earlier reviewer noted, Foot maintains that for humans, a certain sort of "practical reason" is characteristic of our species, since certain forms of life define us and reason must serve those defining characteristics; not to reason thusly is to be defective, in a way analogous to a shallow, poorly dispersed root system in a tall, heavy tree growing in sandy soil.
There are many problems with this.
(1) Contra to the earlier reviewer, I believe Foot has sleights of hand of her own:
(a) Traditionally, the dilemma of practical reasoning is, "And what about circumstances in which practical rationality demands that one act against virtue?" E.g., a CEO must maximize profits, despite what that does to the lives of employees and the businesses of competitors. Foot simply turns it around: She insists that, virtue being normative, to defy virtue is to be irrational. That is, practical reason must fultill the demands of virtue to be rational.
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Format: Hardcover
This short work is certainly the most beautiful and moving treatise on moral philosophy that has yet been written in the contemporary Anglo-American tradition. Foot's unusually brilliant use of examples, most of them drawn from life and literature, makes Natural Goodness a very pleasant and accessible book to read. But the purpose of these illustrations is to outline a very deep theory of the good life, rational choice and moral reasons. Her main aim is to oppose both the popular neo-Humean and neo-Kantian positions in contemporary moral philosophy and to defend a sort of "neo-Aristotelianism."
Foot begins with the simple point that it is not only part of well-constituted human life to have the capacity to see and hear (as it is of mole or blue-jay life), but also to *reason practically about how to live*. Practical reasoning is not an accidental feature of some human lives, as hat-wearing is. But just as it is part of a soundly constituted human life to discriminate colors and sounds *within certain specific ranges,* so it is part of a soundly constituted human life to *reason practically in certain specific ways*, that is, to operate with certain forms of practical reason. In the first instance, it is an open question what these forms of reasoning are. But whatever they are, things might be quite different with, say Martians: they see only "in black and white", as we say; they have no hearing, let's suppose; and they do not reason about their own future good or in accordance with ideas of justice, at least when they are well functioning. With human beings, Foot argues, prudence and justice are genuine virtues: it belongs to this kind of organism to pursue its own future good, for example, and to take account of other human beings in some way.
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Comment 39 of 44 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Hardcover
This short work is certainly the most beautiful and moving treatise on moral philosophy that has yet been written in the contemporary Anglo-American tradition. Foot's unusually brilliant use of examples, most of them drawn from life and literature, makes Natural Goodness a very pleasant and accessible book to read. But the purpose of these illustrations is to outline a very deep theory of the good life, rational choice and moral reasons. Her main aim is to oppose both the popular neo-Humean and neo-Kantian positions in contemporary moral philosophy and to defend a sort of "neo-Aristotelianism."
Foot begins with the simple point that it is not only part of well-constituted human life to have the capacity to see and hear (as it is of mole or blue-jay life), but also to *reason practically about how to live*. Practical reasoning is not an accidental feature of some human lives, as hat-wearing is. But just as it is part of a soundly constituted human life to discriminate colors and sounds *within certain specific ranges,* so it is part of a soundly constituted human life to *reason practically in certain specific ways*, that is, to operate with certain forms of practical reason. In the first instance, it is an open question what these forms of reasoning are. But whatever they are, things might be quite different with, say Martians: they see only "in black and white", as we say; they have no hearing, let's suppose; and they do not reason about their own future good or in accordance with ideas of justice, at least when they are well functioning. With human beings, Foot argues, prudence and justice are genuine virtues: it belongs to this kind of organism to pursue its own future good, for example, and to take account of other human beings in some way.
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