In this dissertation I argue, first, that an Aristotelian/Kindist approach to ethics is superior to the dominant approach of the 20th Century because it avoids deep meta-ethical puzzles, and second, that we should reject traditional Aristotelian approaches to ethics and adopt what I call Cultural Kindism instead.
The view that dominated the last century mandates that we think of some things – e.g. pleasure, knowledge, virtue – as good “full stop,” or good simpliciter. I argue that (a) this approach entails a set of seemingly irresolvable disagreements about the nature of goodness, namely, whether we ought to be (anti)realists, (non)cognitivists, (non)naturalists, etc., (b) Aristotelians avoid these debates, and (c) we have strong reason to favor an approach that avoids these debates.
According to traditional Aristotelianism, evaluations of living things are, when justified, grounded in facts about the species of which the object of evaluation is a member. A member is defective and (thereby) lives a deprived life, just in case the member fails to meet the standard for good members of its kind. Against these philosophers I argue that the idea that we can ground (moral) evaluations of people by reference to their membership in the biological kind ‘human being’ is at best without foundations, and at worst (for the Aristotelian), pushes us to the dominant approach of the 20th Century.
On the Aristotelian approach I defend, it is not a person’s membership in a biological kind (or species) that grounds evaluations of her, but rather her membership in what I call a cultural kind. Cultural kinds include parent, spouse, friend, philosopher, citizen, and so on, and are defined by the set of ends appropriate to a member of that kind. A parent has the end of the welfare of her children, a spouse the welfare of his spouse, a philosopher the end of wisdom and the pursuit of wisdom, and so on. According to Cultural Kindism, people become objects of evaluation not because they have been born into a particular biological kind, but because they come to be members of various cultural kinds.