Species and the Good in Anne Conway's Metaethics

In Colin Marshall (ed.), Comparative Metaethics: Neglected Perspectives on the Foundations of Morality. Routledge. pp. 102-118 (2020)
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Anne Conway rejects the view that creatures are essentially members of any natural kind more specific than the kind 'creature'. That is, she rejects essentialism about species membership. This chapter provides an analysis of one of Anne Conway's arguments against such essentialism, which (as I argue) is drawn from metaethical rather than metaphysical premises. In her view, if a creature's species or kind were inscribed in its essence, that essence would constitute a limit on the creature's potential to participate in the divine good. It is this consideration that ultimately leads her to reject essentialism about species membership. The chapter concludes with an examination of some of the metaethical consequences of Conway's view as well as a lesson it can teach us about ideal adviser accounts of the good.

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John R. T. Grey
Michigan State University


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