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.
William FitzpatrickTeleology and the Norms of Nature (New York: Garland Publishing2000). Although Fitzpatrick’s book was published prior to the books by Foot and Thompson their ideas about natural goodness were already available to Fitzpatrick both in published papers and in lectures. Arguments similar to those of Fitzpatrick have also been made in a less developed way by Joseph Millum in “Natural Goodness and Natural Evil” Ratio XIX June 2006 199-213.