Home > Uncategorized > John Hacker-Wright – Neo-Aristotelian Ethical Naturalism as Critical Theory

John Hacker-Wright – Neo-Aristotelian Ethical Naturalism as Critical Theory

The Concordia Philosophy Department Speaker Series presents:

Speaker: John Hacker-Wright, U of Guelph.

Title:  “Neo-Aristotelian Ethical Naturalism as Critical Theory”

Date: Friday, March 31, 15:00-17:00

Location: Concordia Philosophy Department, 2145 Mackay, room S-201.

Abstract:  In this paper, I aim to support the thesis that neo-Aristotelian ethical naturalism can be taken up as a critical theory, that is, as a theory that aims at emancipation and enlightenment by exposing hidden coercion. Neo-Aristotelian ethical naturalism, as presented in the works of Philippa Foot and Michael Thompson, is a view about the place of ethical value in human life. According to this view, reasoning and acting well are a crucial part of what makes human beings good, in the same sense that sharp teeth and an acute sense of smell make a tiger a good tiger. This theory employs a reflective, rather than a positivist theory of human nature; that is, it is an understanding of human life that is not derived from empirical science. Rather it is a transcendental self-understanding of human beings by themselves, a conception of ourselves that we must employ in order to act. As rational animals, we act against a background understanding of ourselves as possessing the power to act on reasons, and further we must have a determinate conception of what it is for that capacity to act on reasons to be well-developed. Current ideologies about human nature, from behaviorism to evolutionary psychology, encourage us to lose track of the priority of this form of self-understanding, and as a consequence, we often conceive moral value as something external to human action: these ideologies situate human life “outside ethics” in Alice Crary’s terminology. The disenchanted view of human life advanced by dominant scientistic ideologies encourage us to see our relation to value as instrumental. Neo-Aristotelian ethical naturalism is a critical theory, then, in that it seeks to restore this necessary and fundamental connection between human action and ethics to its proper central place in our views of human nature.

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