Skip to main content

Human Flourishing and the Appeal to Human Nature*

  • Douglas B. Rasmussen (a1)

If “perfectionism” in ethics refers to those normative theories that treat the fulfillment or realization of human nature as central to an account of both goodness and moral obligation, in what sense is “human flourishing” a perfectionist notion? How much of what we take “human flourishing” to signify is the result of our understanding of human nature? Is the content of this concept simply read off an examination of our nature? Is there no place for diversity and individuality? Is the belief that the content of such a normative concept can be determined by an appeal to human nature merely the result of epistemological naiveté? What is the exact character of the connection between human flourishing and human nature?

These questions are the ultimate concern of this essay, but to appreciate the answers that will be offered it is necessary to understand what is meant by “human flourishing.” “Human flourishing” is a relatively recent term in ethics. It seems to have developed in the last two decades because the traditional translation of the Greek term eudaimonia as “happiness” failed to communicate clearly that eudaimonia was an objective good, not merely a subjective good.

Hide All

1 Contrary to everyday usage, “perfectionism” in ethics does not typically refer to attempts to become God-like, immune to degeneration, incapable of harm, or anything nonhuman. Rather, it refers to becoming human, specifically, to fulfilling those potentialities that make one human.

2 A consequentialistic theory is any theory in normative ethics that attempts to determine obligations merely by whether an action or rule produces the greatest, net expected “good” (or least “bad”) consequences.

3 A deontological theory is any theory in normative ethics that holds “duty” and “right” to be basic and defines the morally good in terms of them. Such theories attempt to determine obligations apart from a consideration of what promotes or expresses the good. For Kantians, this is accomplished primarily by a universalizability test.

4 Miller, Fred D. Jr., Nature, Justice, and Rights in Aristotle's “Politics” (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995), p. 336, n. 1.

5 The question that Socrates asks Euthyphro is, of course, whether something is pious because it is loved by the gods, or whether it is loved by the gods because it is pious. Plato, , Euthyphro, 10.

6 This is not, however, to claim that having the proper feelings and experiences could not make up the good human life. Indeed, the good human life is traditionally understood as the satisfaction of right desire.

7 As will be discussed later, however, human flourishing is not some abstract universal; potentialities unique to the individual are also involved.

8 Ackrill, J. L., “Aristotle on Eudaimonia,” in Essays on Aristotle's Ethics, ed. Rorty, Amélie O. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1980), p. 23.

9 Irfan Khawaja has pointed out to me that the inclusive-dominant distinction is not logically exhaustive and that these terms contrast different issues. He suggests that the issues should be redefined as follows: the inclusive-exclusive distinction pertains to “What is included in human flourishing and what is not?” and the dominant-subordinate distinction pertains to “What is ordered to what and why?” This seems like a good way to discuss these matters. Nonetheless, the inclusive-versus-dominant terminology of W. F. R. Hardie and J. L. Ackrill is well-established and is sufficient for our limited purposes. For more on this issue, see MacDonald, Scott, “Ultimate Ends in Practical Reasoning: Aquinas's Aristotelian Moral Psychology and Anscombe's Fallacy,” Philosophical Review, vol. 100 (01 1991), pp. 3166.

10 These could be regarded as somewhat similar to what John Rawls calls “primary goods,” that is, “things that every rational man is presumed to want.” See Rawls, , A Theory of Justice (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1971), p. 62.

11 For convenience this term is used to stand for considerations that involve both the genus and the species to which a human being belongs.

12 “A is more final than B if though B is sought for its own sake (and hence is indeed a final and not merely intermediate goal) it is also sought for the sake of A.” Ackrill, , “Aristotle on Eudaimonia,” p. 21.

13 Ibid., p. 19. As Ackrill implies, the relations of subordination are even more complicated than described here. See MacDonald, “Ultimate Ends in Practical Reasoning,” for a discussion of these complications and a thorough defense of the idea that the human good is an inclusive end. MacDonald argues, however, that Ackrill's example of putting's relationship to golfing is not a good one for illustrating inclusivity, because it is logically possible to play a round of golf without putting. To illustrate inclusivity, MacDonald instead uses the example of running a ten-kilometer race as a constituent part of a triathlon. Yet it still seems that Ackrill's example of putting's relationship to golfing could be defended as a constitutive part if one noted that the end was doing well at golf or having the lowest score, not merely playing a round of golf.

14 Thus, the theory of obligation generated by this inclusivist view of human flourishing is one in which it is not necessary to calculate what the expected consequences of every proposed course of conduct might be in order to determine what is good and ought to be done. Nor is it necessary always to be open to the possibility of such calculation. Though calculation would be appropriate for dealing with matters that are entirely instrumental to human flourishing, this is not so when it comes to the components of human flourishing itself. The first principle of practical reason is, as Aquinas noted: Pursue good and avoid evil. Thus, the major concern is determining what in the particular and contingent is really good or virtuous. Once one discerns what is good or virtuous, one knows what ought to be done. It is in this respect that an ethics of human flourishing is not consequentialistic (as defined in note 2), because some virtues and goods are seen as activities that characterize our human flourishing itself, not merely as external means. This is not to say, however, that there might not be other senses (for example, a nonmaximizing sense) in which this view can be termed “consequentialistic.”

15 Uyl, Douglas J. Den, The Virtue of Prudence (New York: Peter Lang, 1991), pp. 3738.

16 There is nothing incompatible about human flourishing's being objective and its being diverse or individualized. This is discussed in Section IV below.

17 Sidgwick, Henry, The Methods of Ethics, 7th ed. (Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing Co., 1981), p. 382.

18 Mill, John Stuart, Utilitarianism, ch. 2.

19 Uyl, Den, The Virtue of Prudence, p. 27. See also Mack, Eric, “Moral Individualism: Agent Relativity and Deontic Restraints,” Social Philosophy and Policy, vol. 7, no. 1 (Autumn 1989), pp. 81111.

20 As Ackrill puts it, “the most final end … because it includes all final ends” (“Aristotle on Eudaimonia,” p. 23).

21 The foregoing discussion of features (3) a nd (4) of human flourishing revises, develops, and expands upon material from chapter three of Rasmussen, Douglas B. and Uyl, Douglas J. Den, Liberalism Defended: The Challenge of Post-Modernity (Cheltenham, UK, and Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar, 1997).

22 John Cooper notes that “for Aristotle, eudaimonia is necessarily the result of a person's own efforts; success, of whatever kind, could only count as eudaimonia if due to one's own efforts.” Cooper, John, Reason and Human Good in Aristotle (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1975), p. 124.

23 See Whiting, Jennifer, “Aristotle's Function Argument: A Defense,” Ancient Philosophy, vol. 8 (1988), p. 43:

A heart which, owing to some deficiency in its natural capacities, cannot beat on its own but is made to beat by means of a pacemaker is not a healthy heart. For it, the heart, is not strictly performing its function. Similarly, a man who, owing to some deficiency in his natural capacities, cannot manage his own life but is managed by means of another's deliberating and ordering him is not eudaimôn — not even if he possesses the same goods and engages in the same first order activities as does a eudaimôn man. For he, the man, is not strictly performing his function. … Aristotle's claim that eudaimonia is an activity of the soul in accordance with virtue shows that he thinks that eudaimonia consists in exercising rational agency.

24 See Aristotle, , Nicomachean Ethics, 1099b18–25 and 1168b341169a3. In De Anima, 417b18–26, Aristotle states that the exercise of reason, as contrasted to sense perception, is up to the agent, that is, dependent on the agent's effort, for its functioning. Fred D. Miller, Jr. first directed me to this passage.

25 If human beings were attached to machines that satisfied their every need and thus made it unnecessary for them to do anything, that is, if everything were done for them so that they were essentially passive, their lives would not be worthwhile. There would be no self-direction, no reason, and no individualization. Fundamentally, their lives would not really be their own. There would be no such thing as human flourishing.

26 See Uyl, Den, The Virtue of Prudence, pp. 183–86.

27 Aquinas states that “man is master of his actions through his reason and will; whence, too, the free-will is defined as ‘the faculty and will of reason’” (Summa Theologiae, Iallae 1.1). See MacDonald, Scott, “Egoistic Rationalism: Aquinas's Basis for Christian Morality,” in Christian Theism and the Problem of Philosophy, ed. Beaty, Michael D. (Notre Dame and London: University of Notre Dame Press, 1990), pp. 327–54.

28 Veatch, Henry B. puts this point well in his Human Rights: Fact or Fancy? (Baton Rouge and London: Louisiana State University Press, 1985), p. 84:

For is it not evident that not only does a human being not attain his natural end by an automatic process of development and maturity after the manner of an animal? In addition, no human being ever attains his natural end or perfection save by his own personal effort and exertion. No one other than the human individual — no agency of society, of family, of friends, or of whatever can make or determine or program an individual to be a good man, or live the life that a human being ought to live. Instead attaining one's natural end as a human person is nothing if not a “do-it-yourself” job.

29 See Rasmussen, Douglas B. and Uyl, Douglas J. Den, Liberty and Nature (La Salle, IL: Open Court, 1991), p. 40:

In an ontological sense, the person is a unity seeking further actualization of the self. But since further actualization depends on choice reflected through action, the degree to which action and choice are consistent affects the degree of success the individual will have. … The Aristotelian eudaimonic person is not characterized by an aggregation of intentions, desires, or actions. It is rather that one's intentions, desires, and actions come to be a manifestation of a single core self developing towards its further realization.

30 See Rogers, Kelly, “Aristotle on Loving Another for His Own Sake,” Phronesis, vol. 39, no. 3 (1994), pp. 291302. Scott MacDonald notes that “the claim that one seeks the good of others as a part of one's own good does not mean that one does not seek the good of others for its own sake but only for the sake of one's own good. One can seek the constituents of one's own good for their own sakes, and also for the sake of the good of which they are constituents” (“Egoistic Rationalism,” p. 352, n. 35).

31 See Cooper, John, “Aristotle on Friendship,” in Rorty, , ed., Essays on Aristotle's Ethics, pp. 301–40.

32 See Annas, Julia, The Morality of Happiness (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), pp. 250–52, for a discussion of this point.

33 This paragraph is taken, with slight alterations, from my entry “Perfectionism,” in Encyclopedia of Applied Ethics, vol. 3 (San Diego: Academic Press, 1997), pp. 473–80. Further, the discussion of practical wisdom in this essay develops and expands upon ideas and themes presented there.

34 The principle of universalizability will be discussed in Section IV.

35 Ethical rationalism is understood here to be the position which holds (1) that abstract ethical principles alone can determine the proper course of conduct for any particular individual, and (2) that particular and contingent facts are not morally relevant when it comes to determining the proper course of conduct for an individual.

36 “To admit an irreducible plurality of ends is to admit a limit to practical reasoning, and to admit that some substantial decisions are not to be explained, and not to be justified by any rational calculation. This is a possibility that cannot be conceptually excluded, even if it makes satisfying theoretical reconstruction of different uses of ‘good,’ as a target-setting term, impossible.” Hampshire, Stuart, Freedom of Mind (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1971), p. 79.

37 Lomasky, Loren, Persons, Rights, and the Moral Community (New York: Oxford University Press, 1987), p. 51.

38 Utilitarianism is a consequentialistic theory of obligation whose aim is neither altruistic nor egoistic, but universalistic. One's own good should be considered, but not more than any other's; hence, it is an agent-neutral theory.

39 Law must be concerned with rules that are universal and necessary, because it is concerned with the question of establishing social conditions that must apply to everyone equally. Ethics, on t he other hand, need not b e so construed. Ethical principles need to be open to the particular and contingent circumstances of the lives of different individuals.

40 See Dahl, Norman O., Practical Reason, Aristotle, and Weakness of the Will (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1984), p. 111.

41 Miller, Fred D. Jr., “Aristotle on Rationality and Action,” Review of Metaphysics, vol. 38 (1984), pp. 499520.

42 The diagrams in Figure 1 come from Uyl, Den, The Virtue of Prudence, pp. 192–93.

43 The list of goods that comprise each pie comes from Aristotle, 's Rhetoric, 1362b10–28. It should be noted that health includes here action and life, and that intellectual ability involves speech.

44 If we identify HF1 as the life of a businessperson, HF2 as the life of an athlete, and HF3 as the life of a philosopher, we see that a philosophic life is but one of the possible legitimate forms of flourishing. HF3 is not an inherently superior form of flourishing. There are no inherently superior forms of flourishing. The pie diagrams illustrate well the inclusivist, agent-relative view of human flourishing and the central role of practical wisdom. They also reveal clearly how much this neo-Aristotelian view, which I have been elucidating, varies from the dominant-end, contemplative model of human flourishing.

45 This point is developed further in the third subsection of Section IV.

46 Morality requires both explanation and justification. It is not sui generis. For an ethics of human flourishing, morality exists for the purpose of helping human beings obtain a better life. The ultimate answer it offers to the question “Why be moral?” is “Because it is good for you.” This may seem an implausible answer to some, but the deontological answer “Because it is your duty” is a nonstarter. It simply begs the question and does not take up the explanatory challenge.

47 See Uyl, Den, The Virtue of Prudence, p. 213.

48 Ibid., pp. 167–68. For a similar view, see Wilkes, Kathleen V., “The Good Man and the Good for Man in Aristotle's Ethics,” Mind, vol. 87 (10 1978), p. 570.

49 If we let P refer to the statement “X-ing is right and ought to be done” (or “X-ing is wrong and ought not to be done”), then conventionalism can be defined as the position which holds that “P is true” is semantically equivalent to “We think or believe P is true”; and subjectivism can be defined as the position which holds that “P is true” is semantically equivalent to “I believe or think P is true.” In either case, the truth of a moral claim does not exist apart from its being thought or believed to be so.

50 See Hurka, Thomas, Perfectionism (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), pp. 5568.

51 As Aquinas observes: “Although it is necessary for the truth of cognition that the cognition answer to the thing known, still it is not necessary that the mode of the thing known be the same as the mode of its cognition” (Summa Contra Gentiles, II, 75).

52 Kenny, Anthony, The Metaphysics of Mind (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989), p. 134.

53 The principle behind an abstract formulation of human flourishing can be stated as follows: Human flourishing must be human flourishing for some person, but it can be flourishing for any.

54 It should also be noted here that the ability of a value to be the basis for universalizable conduct is not sufficient to establish common values or a reason for other-regarding conduct among persons. This is so, because the universalization of agent-relative goods does not show P1's good to be P2's good, nor does it show that the production of P2's good provides P1 with a reason for action, or vice versa. Thus, if P1's good should conflict with P2's, universalizability would not provide a way out of this conflict.

55 Veatch, Henry B., “Ethical Egoism New Style: Should Its Trademark Be Aristotelian or Libertarian?” in his Swimming against the Current in Contemporary Philosophy (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 1990), p. 194.

56 For a recent discussion of this assumption, see Lombardi, Joseph L., “James Rachels on Kant's Basic Idea,” American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly, vol. 71 (Winter 1997), pp. 5358. See also Veatch, Henry B., “Modern Ethics, Teleology, and Love of Self,” The Monist, vol. 75 01 1992), pp. 5270.

57 “To recognize that one must build the foundation of a house before one can build the second story does not require that one value the view from the basement more than the view from the balcony.” Uyl, Den, The Virtue of Prudence, pp. 196–97. See also his discussion of Thomas Nagel's view of practical reason (ibid., pp. 29–34).

58 See Uyl, Douglas J. Den and Rasmussen, Douglas B., “‘Rights’ as MetaNormative Principles,” Liberty for the 21st Century, ed. Machan, Tibor R. and Rasmussen, Douglas B. (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 1995), pp. 5975; Rasmussen, and Uyl, Den, Liberalism Defended; and Rasmussen, and Uyl, Den, Liberty and Nature.

59 Cf. Rasmussen, and Uyl, Den, Liberty and Nature, pp. 173219.

60 As noted in t he sixth subsection of Section II, t he open-ended character of our natural sociality creates the need for finding principles that will allow for the possibility that individuals might flourish in different ways (in different communities and cultures) without creating moral conflict.

61 See note 58.

62 The aim of “metanormative” justice is not the human flourishing of the individual. Rather, the aim is establishing a political/legal context so that social life in its widest sense might be possible without requiring the sacrifice of one person's form of flourishing to another's. Though the need for “metanormative” justice is based on the character of human flourishing — e.g., its individuality and sociality – the direct object of its concern is not the personal flourishing of the individual.

63 Aristotle did not clearly distinguish between the exclusive and nonexclusive senses of sociality. Nor, with his use of the term “polis,” did he distinguish clearly between society and state. Thus, it should be noted that this account of the virtue of justice differs from his.

64 Uyl, Den, The Virtue of Prudence, 194–95

65 Loren Lomasky summarizes this viewpoint well when he observes that Rawlsian contractors are “perfectly pure specimens of autonomy. None can be deflected from rational reflection by the force of any untoward inclination, because behind the veil one does not know what one's inclinations are” (Persons, Rights, and the Moral Community, p., 43).

66 Wilkes, Kathleen V., Real People (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1988), p. 213.

67 See Dahl, , Practical Reason, Aristotle, and Weakness of the Will, pp. 9399.

68 Cooper, John M., “Eudaimonism, the Appeal to Nature, and ‘Moral Duty’ in Stoicism,” in Aristotle, Kant, and the Stoics, ed. Engstrom, Stephen and Whiting, Jennifer (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), pp. 264–65.

69 See MacIntyre, Alasdair, Whose Justice? Which Rationality? (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1988). For an important and powerful critique of this book, see Irwin, T. H., “Tradition and Reason in the History of Ethics,” Social Philosophy and Policy, vol. 7, no. 1 (Autumn 1989), pp. 4568.

70 Also, it seems unfair to suppose that those who claim that reason is always embodied in a tradition mean to endorse the view that the truth of a proposition consists just in members of a tradition thinking or believing that it is so.

71 See Rasmussen, Douglas B., “Quine and Aristotelian Essentialism,” The New Scholasticism, vol. 58 (Summer 1984), pp. 316–35; Rasmussen, , “The Significance for Cognitive Realism of the Thought of John Poinsot,” American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly, vol. 68 (Summer 1994), pp. 409–24; Brody, Baruch, Identity and Essence (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1980); Machan, Tibor R., “Epistemology and Moral Knowledge,” Review of Metaphysics, vol. 36 (09 1982), pp. 2349; Pols, Edward, Radical Realism (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1992); and Lisska, Anthony J., Aquinas's Theory of Natural Law (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996).

72 We commonly think of artifacts as having a proper function (ergon), e.g., the function of a knife is to cut. To claim that an entity has a natural function is to claim that an entity has a proper function in virtue of what it is, not as the result of someone designing it for a certain activity. “Proper” means essential to the entity. The claim that an entity has a proper activity that is its natural function is confined here to the biological realm. Thus, natural functions primarily occur in living organisms. The claim that living entities have natural functions rests, however, on the further claim that living entities have an end (telos) in virtue of their nature. Thus, the natural function of a living thing is understood in terms of its natural end. “End” means in this context that-for-the-sake-of-which, but it does not necessarily mean “conscious purpose.” This claim is explained and defended below.

73 This is the alleged fallacy of deducing a statement of what ought to be from a statement of what is the case, or deducing a statement about a value from a statement about a fact.

74 See Rasmussen, and Uyl, Den, Liberty and Nature, pp. 5657, as well as Veatch, Henry B., For an Ontology of Morals (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1971).

75 MacIntyre, Alasdair, After Virtue (Notre Dame: Notre Dame University Press, 1981), p. 152.

76 Vitalism holds that present in any living thing is an immaterial substance, an élan vital, that imparts to that thing powers that are neither possessed by nor result from the inanimate parts that compose it. Vitalism should, then, be distinguished from the view that present in any living thing are emergent properties, which are contingent on the organization of its inanimate parts, but not reducible to them.

77 If one's telos is ineluctable, then the issue of being responsible for achieving it is irrelevant.

78 Genericism is the view “that all developmental processes are generically equivalent across individuals such that individuals come to be little more than repositories of generic endowments” (Uyl, Den, The Virtue of Prudence, p. 36).

79 See Hurka, , Perfectionism, for an account of human flourishing which does not assume a theory of human nature. See also George, Robert P., “Natural Law and Human Nature,” in Natural Law Theory, ed. George, Robert P. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992), pp. 3141, where George argues that basic goods such as knowledge and friendship are self-evidently good and do not require an anthropological basis. See Lisska, , Aquinas's Theory of Natural Law, for a critique of George's view.

80 “Naturalistic” is used here to rule out the necessity of any supernatural commitment. It does not mean the same thing as materialism or, at least, not eliminative or reductive materialism. See Sober, Elliott's discussion of “Teleology Naturalized” in his Philosophy of Biology (Boulder and San Francisco: Westview Press, 1993), pp. 8287.

81 Lennox, James G., “Teleology,” in Keywords in Evolutionary Biology, ed. Keller, Evelyn Fox and Lloyd, Elisabeth A. (Cambridge, MA, and London: Harvard University Press, 1992), pp. 324–33.

82 Lennox, James G., “Plato's Unnatural Teleology,” Platonic Investigations, ed. O'Meara, Dominic J. (Washington, DC: Catholic University Press, 1985), pp. 195218.

83 The Timaeus is Plato's creation myth in which the divine craftsman, the “demiurge,” gives purpose to nature.

84 See Gotthelf, Allan, “Aristotle's Conception of Final Causality,” in Philosophical Issues in Aristotle's Biology, ed. Gotthelf, Allan and Lennox, James (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987), pp. 204–42; Gotthelf, , “Understanding Aristotle's Teleology,” in Final Causality in Nature and Human Affairs, ed. Hassing, R. F. (Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 1997), pp. 7182; and Miller, , Nature, Justice, and Rights in Aristotle's “Politics” (supra note 4), section 10.2, “Natural Teleology,” pp. 336–46.

85 Delbrück, Max, “Aristotle-totle-totle,” in Of Microbes and Life, ed. Monod, Jacques and Borek, Ernest (New York: Columbia University Press, 1971), pp. 5455. Fred D. Miller's work (see note 84) first drew my attention to this statement by Delbrück. See also Ayala, Francisco J., “The Autonomy of Biology as a Natural Science,” in Biology, History, and Natural Philosophy, ed. Breck, A. D. and Yourgrau, W. (New York: Plenum Press, 1972), pp. 116; Ayala, , “Teleological Explanations in Evolutionary Biology,” Philosophy of Science, vol. 37 (1970), pp. 115; Brandon, Robert N., “Biological Teleology: Questions and Explanation,” Studies in the History and Philosophy of Science, vol. 12 (1981), pp. 91105; Jacobs, Jonathan, “Teleological Form and Explanation,” in Current Issues in Teleology, ed. Rescher, Nicholas (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1986), pp. 4955; Taylor, Charles, The Explanation of Behavior (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1964); Wimsatt, W. C., “Teleology and the Logical Structure of Function Statements,” Studies in the History and Philosophy of Science, vol. 3 (1972), pp. 180; Woodfield, Andrew, Teleology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1976); Wright, Larry, Teleological Explanations (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1976).

86 “Characteristic c is an adaptation for task t in a population if and only if members of the population now have c because, ancestrally, there was a selection for having c and c conferred a fitness advantage because it performed task t” (Sober, , Philosophy of Biology, p. 84).

87 Lennox, , “Teleology,” in Keywords in Evolutionary Biology, p. 327.

88 See Rasmussen, and Uyl, Den, Liberty and Nature, pp. 5157, for a critique of Moore, G. E.'s “open-question argument” and his claim that goodness cannot be defined.

89 Machan, Tibor R., Human Rights and Human Liberties (Chicago: Nelson-Hall, 1974), p. 66.

90 Aquinas, , Summa Theologiae, Ia.5.1.

91 Meyer, Susan Sauvé, Aristotle on Moral Responsibility (Oxford, UK, and Cambridge, MA: Basil Blackwell, 1993), p. 166.

92 Hardie, W. F. R., Aristotle's Ethical Theory (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1980), pp. 2324.

93 Nozick, Robert, “On the Randian Argument,” The Personalist, vol. 52 (1971), pp. 282304. See also Nagel, Thomas, “Aristotle on Eudaimonia,” in Rorty, , ed., Essays on Aristotle's Ethics (supra note 8), pp. 714.

94 Glassen, P., “A Fallacy in Aristotle's Function Argument about the Good,” Philosophical Quarterly, vol. 7 (1957), pp. 319–22.

95 That is to say, what a human being is (its formal cause) and what a human being is for (its final cause) synchronize in the idea of benefit for members of a kind.

96 Whiting, , “Aristotle's Function Argument: A Defense,” p. 39.

97 Irwin, T. H., “The Metaphysical and Psychological Basis of Aristotle's Ethics,” in Rorty, , ed., Essays on Aristotle's Ethics, p. 49.

98 See Aquinas's discussion of abstracting the “whole” nature of a being in Being and Essence, 2nd ed. rev., trans. Mauer, Armand (Toronto: The Pontifical Institute for Mediaeval Studies, 1968), pp. 3744.

99 See Rasmussen, , “Quine and Aristotelian Essentialism” (supra note 71), pp. 328–29.

100 Wilkes, , “The Good Man and the Good for Man” (supra note 48), p. 568.

101 Veatch, Henry B., in his classic Rational Man (Bloomington and London: Indiana University Press, 1962), calls the human function “rational or intelligent living.”

102 This gap is discussed in Sumner, L. W., Welfare, Happiness, and Ethics (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996), pp. 7879. However, Sumner does not consider a view of human flourishing that is inclusive, individualized, and agent-relative.

103 See Rasmussen, and Uyl, Den, Liberalism Defended.

104 Berlin, Isaiah, “The Pursuit of the Ideal,” in Berlin, The Crooked Timber of Humanity (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1991), p. 11.

105 Berlin, Isaiah, “Alleged Relativism in Eighteenth-Century European Thought,” in ibid., p. 80.

106 See reply (2) in Section III above.

107 However, these goods may not all be on the same level; some may be more fundamental than others. But this is a matter for further investigation.

108 Veatch, , Rational Man, pp. 86ff.

109 See Uyl, Den, The Virtue of Prudence, pp. 200213.

110 See Kraut, Richard, Aristotle on the Human Good (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1989), for an important criticism of the inclusivist interpretation of Aristotle's ethics.

111 Norton, David L., Personal Destinies (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1976), p. 13.

* Thanks are due to Roger Bissell, Robert Campbell, Douglas Den Uyl, Paul Gaffney, Jonathan Jacobs, Irfan Khawaja, Tibor R. Machan, Eric Mack, Aeon Skoble, and Henry Veatch for their comments on earlier drafts. Also, the helpful assistance of the editors of this volume deserves mention. Finally, the generous support of the Earhart Foundation helped to make this essay possible.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Social Philosophy and Policy
  • ISSN: 0265-0525
  • EISSN: 1471-6437
  • URL: /core/journals/social-philosophy-and-policy
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed