Customer Reviews


10 Reviews
5 star:
 (5)
4 star:
 (1)
3 star:
 (2)
2 star:
 (2)
1 star:    (0)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favorable review
The most helpful critical review


39 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Virtue, Happiness and the Form of Human Life
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...
Published on February 19, 2002 by prudence@justice.com

versus
70 of 82 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, appealing, ultimately unsatisfying
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...
Published on July 27, 2002 by Bob Fancher


Most Helpful First | Newest First

39 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Virtue, Happiness and the Form of Human Life, February 19, 2002
This review is from: Natural Goodness (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. Of course, a lot of them don't, but a lot of them don't have the right number of teeth either!
To reformulate: just as different things may count as "good sight," "good hearing" and "the right number of teeth" in different species of animal, so different things might count as "good reasoning about how to live" in different forms of "intelligent" life. Or again: the distinction of fundamental "virtues" and "vices" might rightly be drawn differently in radically different forms of intelligent life. But as a matter of fact for *us humans* prudence and justice are genuine virtues and genuine forms of practical rationality. Or rather, this is what we are implicitly claiming in offering people reasons of prudence and justice and in criticizing their actions on these fronts -- and, Foot argues, there is no reason why we should not accept these implicit claims, once they become explicit.
The question much discussed by philosophers -- what gives certain forms of practical reasoning "authority" or "normativity" -- is thus solved by Foot without the slight of hand we find in Kantian writers and without the immoralist conclusions reached by consistent Humeans. This part of the book is difficult but Foot's magnificent style keeps the reader on board.
In the chapter on Happiness these ideas are extended and applied; her discussion of "happy" Nazis and "happy" idiots and "unhappy" imprisoned Resistance leaders is worth the price of the book. She rescues the idea of happiness from the egoistic treatment that is usually presupposed in discussions of it, making an astonishingly strong case that something in the way of justice, for example, is essential to the possibility of a genuinely happy life.
Foot's concludes with a short exposition and critique of the ideas of Nietzsche which helps one grasp the larger picture she has been drawing: she is in many respects close to Nietzsche but believes that most of what we value in morality can be defended against his attack.
This book is certain to become one of the classics of moral philosophy. It is also likely to be an excellent introduction to serious work in the field.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


70 of 82 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, appealing, ultimately unsatisfying, July 27, 2002
By 
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Natural Goodness (Hardcover)
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. That's nice, but no one is likely to believe it unless they are desperate to do so. If the CEO goes to his board to explain why profits are declining with, "To be practically rational requires one to act in accordance with virtue," do we really think anyone on the board will be impressed?
(b) Similarly, her "rescuing" the notion of happiness turns on distinguishing various meanings of the term, some of which apply quite well to "happy Nazis"--or CEO's--and the like, but to insist that there is *another* sense of the term that cannot be fulfiilled in the absence of virtue. Wonderful. And why should wicked people prefer, or be obligated by, this kind of "happiness" rather than the other senses that Foot acknowledges are real and consistent with evil? Because practical reason must conform with virtue? And how many people who are happy--though not in the "right" sense--will find this compelling?
(2) At one point, Foot criticizes Nietzsche for constructing a generalizing theory without bothering to observe facts. Sadly, she does the same, and her argument turns on her so doing.
Several very substantial bodies of research today claim that, in fact, our "vices" are "natural" and have substantial advantages. For instance, in evolutionary psychology, infidelity, deception, vengeance, jealousy, and the like seem to have substantial advantages in maximizing the survival of one's genes. Similarly, in clinical and social psychologies robust bodies of research show that self-deception is characteristic of "healthy" people, while persons prone to, or suffering, depression are more likely to be truth-seeking and to be accurate in their self-appraisals and appraisals of their control over their environments. (E.g., in any group, on any desired atribute, about eighty percent of the people believe themselves to be above average, and over half believe themeslves to be above the ninetieth percentile.) And the basic irrationality of how we "naturally" approach problem-solving is well known, a la Kahneman and Tversky.
If these bodies of research hold up, it will follow that "fulfilling the life form of the species" involves all the vices that ethics is supposed to give us reason to proscribe. "Natural goodness," by Foots criteria, would be very bad indeed.
Doesn't it seem, contra Foot, that (if we retain our current notions of virtue) such research fits the old religious idea that our natures are inclined to evil and must be disciplined toward virtue? Even truth-seeking is not a "natural" attribute of our species, requiring a good, disciplined (philosophical?) education for its instantiation!
(3) It is hard to see, on this analysis, how ethics differs from mental health, and hence why we should not turn ethics over to psychologists--they, after all, are supposed to know the "life form of our species" and to identify and address "defects." Yet surely it is obvious that listening to mental health types has been one of the ethical disasters of our century, is it not?
(4) These days, no one is "defective" for failing to instantiate the "life form of our species," even on the attributes that Foot supposes we can obviously evaluate as better or worse--e.g., sight,hearing, able-bodiedness, and the like. They are, at best "challenged," and allegedly it is only our prejudices that make us think "normal" characteristics are "better." Such views grow out of a body of ethical reasoning that Foot gives no inkling of even knowing--and her blithe assumption that outside of ethics we have "natural goods" defined by the "life form of our species" bespeaks some sort of serious blindness to the conditions under which we live today. Her argument cannot even get off the ground in the face of such views, and people who hold them are neither few in number nor floundering at the margins of power.
There is value in this book, for those of us who think this way, in that it is probably the most logically elegant presntation of this view around, and it presents it in less than a hundred pages, deftly written. But is does nothing to help us see why our thinking this way should carry much weight, or indeed why we should not give up the field to our opponents.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Virtue, Happiness and the Form of Human Life, February 19, 2002
This review is from: Natural Goodness (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. Of course, a lot of them don't, but a lot of them don't have the right number of teeth either!
To reformulate: just as different things may count as "good sight," "good hearing" and "the right number of teeth" in different species of animal, so different things might count as "good reasoning about how to live" in different forms of "intelligent" life. Or again: the distinction of fundamental "virtues" and "vices" might rightly be drawn differently in radically different forms of intelligent life. But as a matter of fact for *us humans* prudence and justice are genuine virtues and genuine forms of practical rationality. Or rather, this is what we are implicitly claiming in offering people reasons of prudence and justice and in criticizing their actions on these fronts -- and, Foot argues, there is no reason why we should not accept these implicit claims, once they become explicit.
The question much discussed by philosophers -- what gives certain forms of practical reasoning "authority" or "normativity" -- is thus solved by Foot without the slight of hand we find in Kantian writers and without the immoralist conclusions reached by consistent Humeans. This part of the book is difficult but Foot's magnificent style keeps the reader on board.
In the chapter on Happiness these ideas are extended and applied; her discussion of "happy" Nazis and "happy" idiots and "unhappy" imprisoned Resistance leaders is worth the price of the book. She rescues the idea of happiness from the egoistic treatment that is usually presupposed in discussions of it, making an astonishingly strong case that something in the way of justice, for example, is essential to the possibility of a genuinely happy life.
Foot's concludes with a short exposition and critique of the ideas of Nietzsche which helps one grasp the larger picture she has been drawing: she is in many respects close to Nietzsche but believes that most of what we value in morality can be defended against his attack.
This book is certain to become one of the classics of moral philosophy. It is also likely to be an excellent introduction to serious work in the field.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Welcome Respite from Traditional Ethical Theory, August 26, 2008
By 
Herbert Gintis (Northampton, MA USA) - See all my reviews
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Natural Goodness (Hardcover)
Traditionally, economic theory has taken rational individuals to be self-regarding and consequentialist. That is, economic actors have been treated as caring only about the private gain afforded by a transaction. We now know from experiment that this characterization is incorrect. Individuals have other-regarding concerns (e.g., empathy, altruistic cooperation, altruistic punishment), and care about ethical aspects of strategic interaction (e.g., honesty, trustworthiness, considerateness). There remain many researchers (especially economists, biologists, and mathematicians) who cannot conceive of this behavior as either the product of error or enlightened long-term self-regard, but this view is, in my opinion, clearly incorrect.

With what do we with the traditional economic model of the rational individual? Ultimately, we would like to replace the current set of equations that characterize rational choice with another set of equations that do a better job at predicting behavior. This alternative is, however, only a distant dream. For the present, we need a general, qualitative notion of the human subject that guides research activity. Because philosophers have thought about this issue for a long time, it is worthwhile inspecting their general conclusions.

Of course, there are problems with taking the view of philosophers concerning human behavior seriously, for rather than collecting and analyzing a body of data using the scientific method, they invariable depend upon carefully chosen anecdotes. But, the plural of anecdote, as the saying goes, is not data. Moreover, philosophers carry on interminable conversations with one another, rarely taking into account scientific research, some of which could be of great interest in advancing philosophical ideas.

Most of 20th century moral philosophy was deeply influenced by G. E. Moore's analysis of the "naturalistic fallacy" (Principia Ethica, 1903), according to which claims about ethics cannot be cannot draw upon "natural" evidence, including the social or individual effects of alternative forms of behavior. This anti-naturalism led to subjectivist, non-cognitive, moral theories, including emotivism, prescriptivism, and expressivism, that have little value for the scientific study of human behavior.

Philippa Foot's naturalistic ethics is a welcome relief from moral subjectivism. Homo sapiens is a species, she says, and every species has a characteristic set of qualities that are required for its flourishing as a species, and exhibiting these qualities define the good for members of this species. For instance, a good oak tree has firm roots, a good deer is fleet of foot, a good mother sacrifices for her offspring, a good wolf participates in the hunt, and a good honey bee waggle-dances to indicate the location of a food source, and stings to defend the hive against intruders.

For humans, this naturalistic view translates into the notion that moral behavior is part of "practical reason," on par with self-regarding motives and other non-moral objectives. According to this view, unless they are morally defective, individuals pursue the good, the right, and the just for the same reason that they pursue pleasure, security, and other self-regarding objectives---it is part of the practical rationality of the species to do so, and not doing so is the mark of a defective member of the species. Moreover, such a defect is a natural defect, on par with physical or mental defect.

Foot supplies no reasons why we are so constituted, or even why animals and plants are so constituted that only a minority of "defective" members fail to display the characteristics that are "good" for that species. Most deer are in fact fleet of foot, most rabbits are prolific breeders, most wolves participate in the hunt, most honey bees do the waggle dance, and most humans display at least a modicum of honesty, trustworthiness, consideration for others, courage, and parental care. The reason, in the case of each species, is that this behavior is the product of biological evolution, and individuals who behaved otherwise were less fit and disappeared from the species. In the case of humans, gene-culture coevolution has ensured that most of us display the appropriate degree of practical reason, and we include ethical and other-regarding considerations in our calculations of what we most prefer to do in a given situation.

A key problem of moral theory is, having identified virtue, to explain why a rational individual should be virtuous. For most of the 20th century, economists considered virtue for virtue's sake to be "irrational." One might be prudent in refraining from robbing, pillaging, raping, and murdering for personal pleasure, but in the absence of penalties, it would be irrational not to satisfy one's whims, whatever the implications for others. This view in philosophical circles is known as "immoralism." In Books I and II of Plato's Republic, the immoralist Glaucon argues that most people consider injustice to be intrinsically superior to justice, and that the just are so only through expedience; were they sufficiently powerful, the just would abandon justice in favor of satisfying their personal whims and exercising their idiosyncratic prejudices. According to Glaucon, the life of the strong unjust man is the best life of all.

Socrates' answer to Glaucon is direct and simple: happiness resides in the "harmony of the soul," not in the possession of wealth and power. In other words, it is part of our constitution as members of the species Homo sapiens that our self-worth and self-dignity is tied up with our moral character. Foot completely agrees with this view, and I think this should be the working hypothesis for the behavioral scientist working on the nature of human strategic interaction. The preference function of the rational actor includes other-regarding preferences and character virtues as well as the traditional self-regarding preferences of economic theory. Moreover, individuals are generally willing to trade off among these valued ends: when it becomes too costly to be honest, or courageous, individuals will be underhanded and cowardly. But, casual observation and empirical evidence indicates that most people are honest most of the time, and there enough courage to go around in most societies.

Foot laments the fact that there are defective individuals who in fact lead perfectly happy lives by exercising their beastly and anti-social proclivities, and applauds the fact that most evil-doers are justly punished. She does not mention, but it must be mentioned, that there are also beastly and defective societies, such as Hitler's Germany, Stalin's Russia, Mao's China, South Africa in the era of apartheid, and beastly individuals who prey on their society, such as Mugabe in Zimbabwe, and so on. But, this fact does not contradict the notion that individuals, unless defective, do good because this is the right thing to do.
It is uncanny how close Foot's account of morality is to a famous poem by Alice Cary, with my notes in brackets ([HG: ... ]).

True worth is in being, not seeming, --
In doing, each day that goes by,
Some little good -- not in dreaming
Of great things to do by and by.
For whatever men say in their blindness,
And spite of the fancies of youth,
There's nothing so kingly as kindness,
And nothing so royal as truth.
[HG: The last two lines give the Socrates/Foot answer as to why immoralism is incorrect. We are kind and truthful because it is "kingly" and "royal" (i.e., intrinsically valued by humans) to do so.]

We get back our mete as we measure --
We cannot do wrong and feel right,
Nor can we give pain and gain pleasure,
For justice avenges each slight.
The air for the wing of the sparrow,
The bush for the robin and wren,
But always the path that is narrow
And straight, for the children of men.
[HG: The first four lines affirm that morality is part of practical reason, and the second four that character virtues for humans are akin to what is "naturally good" for other species.]

'Tis not in the pages of story
The heart of its ills to beguile,
Though he who makes courtship to glory
Gives all that he hath for her smile.
For when from her heights he has won her,
Alas! it is only to prove
That nothing's so sacred as honor,
And nothing so loyal as love!
[HG: The last two lines again give the Socrates/Foot answer as to why immoralism is incorrect]

We cannot make bargains for blisses,
Nor catch them like fishes in nets;
And sometimes the thing our life misses
Helps more than the thing which it gets.
For good lieth not in pursuing,
Nor gaining of great nor of small,
But just in the doing, and doing
As we would be done by, is all.
[HG: A life is successful if it is virtuous, however the vicissitudes of life confer material and social benefits on the individual.]

Through envy, through malice, through hating,
Against the world, early and late,
No jot of our courage abating --
Our part is to work and to wait.
And slight is the sting of his trouble
Whose winnings are less than his worth;
For he who is honest is noble,
Whatever his fortunes or birth.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Virtue, Happiness and the Form of Human Life, February 19, 2002
This review is from: Natural Goodness (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. Of course, a lot of them don't, but a lot of them don't have the right number of teeth either!
To reformulate: just as different things may count as "good sight," "good hearing" and "the right number of teeth" in different species of animal, so different things might count as "good reasoning about how to live" in different forms of "intelligent" life. Or again: the distinction of fundamental "virtues" and "vices" might rightly be drawn differently in radically different forms of intelligent life. But as a matter of fact for *us humans* prudence and justice are genuine virtues and genuine forms of practical rationality. Or rather, this is what we are implicitly claiming in offering people reasons of prudence and justice and in criticizing their actions on these fronts -- and, Foot argues, there is no reason why we should not accept these implicit claims, once they become explicit.
The question much discussed by philosophers -- what gives certain forms of practical reasoning "authority" or "normativity" -- is thus solved by Foot without the slight of hand we find in Kantian writers and without the immoralist conclusions reached by consistent Humeans. This part of the book is difficult but Foot's magnificent style keeps the reader on board.
In the chapter on Happiness these ideas are extended and applied; her discussion of "happy" Nazis and "happy" idiots and "unhappy" imprisoned Resistance leaders is worth the price of the book. She rescues the idea of happiness from the egoistic treatment that is usually presupposed in discussions of it, making an astonishingly strong case that something in the way of justice, for example, is essential to the possibility of a genuinely happy life.
Foot's concludes with a short exposition and critique of the ideas of Nietzsche which helps one grasp the larger picture she has been drawing: she is in many respects close to Nietzsche but believes that most of what we value in morality can be defended against his attack.
This book is certain to become one of the classics of moral philosophy. It is also likely to be an excellent introduction to serious work in the field.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant & eminently readable, June 15, 2012
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Natural Goodness (Paperback)
Stylistically, Foot's Natural Goodness is eminently readable. It's tone is so familiar and real it seems almost conversational, and it would serve other academics well to imitate the admirable economy Foot practices with her words. There is little that I can add to the very comprehensive reviews already on this thread. Foot forwards that virtue is a natural constitutive part of being a member of the human species, such as our physical abilities to form word-like sounds and the mental capability to learn language, and that vice (or a lack of virtue, as the case may be) is thence a natural defect. This defect marks an individual as a non-well functioning human, in a manner that structurally is not different from how a physical or mental defect marks a non-well functioning human, or a lame leg marks a non-well functioning deer.

One possible oddity of this perspective is how it suggests that moral defects is on par with other natural defects, such as defects physical. In our language and in practice and in appeals to the concept, we seem to give Goodness a higher ground than the merely natural. The most obvious (and possibly flawed) example is how we actively seek to punish individuals with defective virtue, while we do not do so for individuals with physical or mental defects.

There are interesting parallels also between the notion that we practice virtue even if it isn't to our individual benefit because virtue as a general principle may be beneficent to the human species as a whole, and the claims forwarded in Dawkins' The Selfish Gene. Although, to be fair, in Dawkins' work terms such as "natural" and "beneficent" (and its synonyms) mean something very different from what they mean in Natural Goodness.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


14 of 27 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars disappointing, October 25, 2002
By A Customer
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Natural Goodness (Hardcover)
The tight, hard reasoning that Foot was once known for
is gone, and its place has been taken by ethical wishful
thinking. There's good work in this tradition -- Michael
Thompson's "Representation of Life," for instance -- and I'd
go there instead.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Philippa Foot. Natural Goodness, December 13, 2012
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Natural Goodness (Paperback)
It has not yet arrived, but I'm sure I'll value it. It's been highly recommended by people I respect and has its place in a philosophical tradition I follow.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Great Axiom, Horrible Miscalculation, June 20, 2009
This review is from: Natural Goodness (Paperback)
A moment of genius appears in the early pages, only to deflate like a flat tire. Foote, a devotee of virtue ethics, has sought to "ground" ethics in a value system, in which she thought epistemology and axiology would kiss and make-up.

She begins with a bang, attesting to her husband's observation that "the good" and the predicate "red" are materially and linguistically different. I thought that this insight would lead to revelatory ethics for the 21st century. Instead, it capitulated to the same mistakes that Iris Murdoch's "Sovereignty of the Good" caused.

Her analysis of "the good" in terms of Aristotlean ethics became execrable. Her first total and complete failure.

But her husband was right, in one significant way. Human judgments are different from predicates about color. I am only surprised Foote went down the path of reification, instead of the path of different evaluations (the Fact/Value/Act divide).

Foote commits the fallacy of wrong judgments. When we judge the truth or falsity of fact claims, our judgments do not become "the truth," but the facts, which our mental faculty determines fit the bill.

Likewise, when we make a value judgment, the value is in us, not in the object of the judgment. I may prize symmetry, beauty, and blond hair, but someone else may value deformity, ugliness, and hairlessnes. We would no more claim that our judgments stand with the definite article "the" as if "the" were universal. What about the romantic languages that omit "the?"

When someone makes a FACTUAL claim, we internally judge the claim as true or false. "The truth" is merely the reification of a mental decision to accept or reject the claim. Likewise, when someone makes a VALUE claim we internally judge the claim as good or bad. "The good" does not exist independently of our judgments. And, when someone makes a PRACTICAL claim, we internally judge the claim as either right or wrong. "The right" does not exist independently from our thoughts.

Since our e/valuations have "no separate" existence from our judgments about facts, values, and acts, this thesis, which insists we do, is doomed, as was Iris Murdock. Only English adds the definite article "the" that transposes a judgment in our heads to a reification of the judgment as independently existing. I feel regret for Ms. Foote, with whom I've communed over the years. If and when she finds "THE GOOD," or "THE FACT," or "THE RIGHT" existing independently of our own judgments (or, decisions), then I think her metaphysical nonsense will leave her judgments for others to claim "THE BAD."
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thank you..., April 11, 2005
This review is from: Natural Goodness (Paperback)
Goodness resides in the hearts of those who are able to think outside themselves especially those who are have the courage to put their lives in danger in order to protect others. These brave souls are what makes the fabric of a great society. We must thank them with our hearts and have a clear understanding in our minds that without them chaos and evil would rule the world. Their spirit is what keeps freedom alive...
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


Most Helpful First | Newest First

Details

Natural Goodness
Natural Goodness by Philippa Foot (Paperback - December 4, 2003)
$55.00 $36.26
In Stock
Add to cart Add to wishlist
Search these reviews only
Send us feedback How can we make Amazon Customer Reviews better for you? Let us know here.