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Ethical Theory Meets Cognitive Science : A Naturalized Aristotelian Alternative to Principles-Based Ethics


Drawing on convergent historical considerations, I argue that philosophy should return to an Aristotelian conception of ethics, according to which ethics is not a set of abstract principles, but rather a practical science analogous to medicine. However, just as we are not limited when practicing medicine to an ancient understanding of the natural world, so too in ethics should the naturalistic basis of our theory be a modern one. I therefore suggest that the best way forward for ethics is a marriage between (1) an Aristotelian view of ethics as a practical science concerned with proper human functioning and the habits of thought/action that constitute it and (2) a modern scientific understanding of the world, drawn principally from the cognitive and biological sciences. This approach allows us to avoid both the difficulties with principles-based approaches, and the sometimes outdated factual and normative aspects of Aristotle's own theory

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