Capacities for goodness: A defense of neo-Aristotelian moral realism

Terence Don Cuneo, Fordham University


Capacities for Goodness: A Defense of neo-Aristotelian Moral Realism is an essay in metaethics. Its overarching aim is to develop and defend a distinctively neo-Aristotelian version of moral realism. The essay breaks into three stages and seven chapters. The first stage of the dissertation (chapters one through three) defends a generic brand of moral realism. In the first chapter, I claim that moral realism is any view which defends the claims that some moral judgments are true in the realist sense, and that moral facts irreducibly exist. I contend, in the second and third chapters, that some version of moral realism is true. Therein, I argue that we should reject rival antirealist views, including moral noncognitivism, alethic antirealism, ‘error theories’ and moral reductionism. The second stage of the dissertation (chapters four through six) develops an account of what it is for humans to flourish. In the fourth chapter, I offer a neo-Aristotelian account of the nature and components of human flourishing. I then proceed, in the fifth chapter, to grapple with what I call the ‘Grounding Question’. The Grounding Question asks: what makes it the case that the sorts of activities, functional states and experiential states which we have identified as components of human flourishing are components of human flourishing? The sixth chapter develops a neo-Aristotelian account of intrinsic goodness. Here I claim that participation in the various components of human flourishing gives rise to moral obligations of various sorts for persons to prize such participation in and for itself. The third stage of the dissertation (chapter 7) sketches a neo-Aristotelian account of the moral virtues. A moral virtue, so I claim, is composed of four components. For any trait that is a virtue, that trait must (i) be an enduring excellence of a sort; (ii) dispose its possessor to apprehend a certain range of morally salient features of the world; (iii) motivate its possessor to bring about a certain range of valuable ends E; and (iv) be such that its possessor cannot ordinarily fail to bring about those valuable ends E which she intends to bring about because of her own incompetence, inattention, etc.

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Recommended Citation

Cuneo, Terence Don, "Capacities for goodness: A defense of neo-Aristotelian moral realism" (1999). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9926892.