Edward Harcourt, Ethics Colloquium; 17-2-16, 16:45–18:30


‘Mental Health’ and Human Excellence

Wednesday 17th February 

Dante Building Room 006


The paper concerns two familiar lines of inquiry: one, stemming from a neo-Aristotelian naturalism associated with Foot and others, asks whether we can derive a catalogue of human excellences from what humans need in order to be some way. The second asks whether (as Plato said) virtue is a kind of health, and vice a kind of illness. The first is often seen as a failure to the extent that it does not enable us to derive a list of moral virtues. But the concept of human excellence is many-layered, so the fact that Foot’s approach may not succeed for moral virtues does not show that it is no good for anything. The kinds of psychological characteristic derived from a more liberal application of Foot’s approach may also help to give non-trivial answers to the second, Platonic line of inquiry.

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