Foot’s Grammar of Goodness

In Philippa Foot on Goodness and Virtue. Palgrave MacMillan. pp. 257-275 (2018)
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In her Natural Goodness, Philippa Foot argues both that a distinctive grammar of goodness applies to living things generally, and that moral goodness in human beings is a special instance of natural goodness. My goal in this chapter is to provide a sympathetic interpretation of Foots’ grammar of goodness, clarifying and expanding it in a few places, and defending it against some objections. I begin by sketching Foot’s grammar. As I understand it, that grammar includes four main notions: 1) THE GOOD OF, 2) GOOD AS / GOOD IN, 3) GOOD FOR, and 4) GOODS / GOOD THINGS. I then consider the relation between GOOD FOR, on the one hand, and THE GOOD OF and GOOD AS, on the other. Is it always GOOD FOR a living thing to be GOOD AS the kind of thing it is? Could something be GOOD FOR an organism without being part of THE GOOD OF that kind of thing? I argue that GOOD FOR, GOOD AS, and THE GOOD OF are inseparable: what is GOOD FOR a living thing just is that which furthers or constitutes THE GOOD OF such a creature, and THE GOOD OF any creature is the actualization of those well-formed capacities that make it GOOD AS the kind of creature that it is. In the final part of this chapter, I consider how happiness fits into Foot’s grammar of goodness as applied to human beings, paying special attention to the idea that THE GOOD OF any living thing consists in a certain form of activity.

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Micah Lott
Boston College


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