Boundless Nature: Virtue Ethics, Wittgenstein and Unrestricted Naturalism

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In this chapter, I am concerned with the attempt to naturalize ethics found in contemporary neo-Aristotelian virtue ethics and represented amongst other by the work of John McDowell, Philippa Foot and Rosalind Hursthouse. I depart from a distinction between three forms of naturalism, hard or scientific naturalism, liberal naturalism and unrestricted or absolute naturalism, which I use to show how neo-Aristotelian virtue ethicists place themselves within a liberal form of naturalism in order to develop an account of the virtues as indeed natural. In the main part of the chapter, I argue, on the one hand, that there is a point of affinity between this endeavour and the approach to nature found in Wittgenstein’s later philosophy and, on the other, that a Wittgensteinian naturalism still differs from the liberal naturalism adopted in neo-Aristotelian virtue ethics in one crucial respect, namely by being unrestricted. Finally, I will make a call for an adoption of this form of naturalism in virtue ethics and argue that this will fundamentally alter the way we ought to approach the virtues in moral philosophy.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEthics in the Wake of Wittgenstein
EditorsBenjamin de Mesel, Oskari Kuusela
Place of PublicationNew York
Publication date2019
ISBN (Print)9781138744295
ISBN (Electronic)9781315181172
Publication statusPublished - 2019
SeriesRoutledge Studies in Ethics and Moral Theory


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