Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


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Degree Name





Peter L. Simpson

Subject Categories



Aristotelianism, Goodness, Mind, Naturalism, Substance, Value


Neo-Aristotelians have made major headway in moral theory, and it is now commonplace to find philosophers defending the reality of goodness through a teleological analysis of human being. Whatever the merits of this approach, it has suffered from a lack of a sustained defense of its pre-modern metaphysical panorama: the Aristotelian conception of the human good gets traction only if its decidedly pre-modern and `robust' philosophy of nature is defensible in its own right. In this dissertation, I aim to give a partial breakdown of the particular sort of metaphysical project that the Aristotelian moral theorist assumes, but does not always explicate. In particular, I aim to show how neo-Aristotelians rely on a particular view of substance that, while certainly challenging to contemporary naturalist construals of the same, is nevertheless defensible in its own right. Moreover, it might well be the case that even `liberal' contemporary naturalist construals of `moral facts' face difficulties that cannot be overcome; for they might only be able to countenance the less deflationary moral ontologies they desire by first assuming a view of substance that puts pressure on the entirety of the `modern' project. The first part of this dissertation will focus on the ways that an Aristotelian nature is defensible. The second part will show in more detail how this pre-modern vision of reality helps to locate and in some cases even `solve' certain metaethical conundrums. The goal is to show why an Aristotelian moral theory can offer a credible alternative to the usual `moral realist' positions in contemporary metaethics, by offering not just a more plausible view of human goodness, but a more plausible view of nature as a whole.

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