Sorts of Naturalism: Requirements for a Successful Theory
In this article I investigate several “sorts of naturalism” that have been advanced in recent years as possible foundations for virtue ethics: those of Michael Thompson, Philippa Foot, Rosalind Hursthouse, John McDowell, and Larry Arnhart. Each of these impressive attempts fails in illuminatingly different ways, and in the opening sections I analyze what has gone variously wrong. I next use this analysis to articulate four criteria that any successful Aristotelian naturalism must meet (my goal is to show what naturalism must deliver, not yet to show that it can deliver it). I then look at Alasdair MacIntyre's approach, which begins with our natural trajectory from complete dependency toward becoming independent practical reasoners; I argue that this sort of naturalism meets the aforementioned criteria and thus provides a good example of what Aristotelian naturalists must do. I close with a consideration of two important objections to any broadly MacIntyrean sort of naturalism.