Knowing the good: The epistemological foundations of the metaphysics of good and evil
The concept of goodness is at the heart of both moral philosophy and action theory. Yet at the same time it is highly controversial what exactly goodness in general and moral goodness in particular consists in. Classical positions in moral philosophy―for example, consequentialists and intentionalists, hedonists and Moorians, Kantians and Neo-Aristotelians―persistently differ from one another in how they conceive of the moral good. Given this intricate dialectical situation, I propose in this project to step back and enquire into the origin of our notions of good and evil: How do we recognize that something is good in the first place? And how does that enable us to determine what goodness is? To answer these questions, I draw on ideas developed in early phenomenological philosophy, namely, by Franz Brentano and Edmund Husserl, as well as on works in analytic moral epistemology. Elucidating the epistemological foundations of our notions of good and evil, we may be in a better position to settle questions in moral philosophy as well.
Personhood and Community: Ontological, Normative, and Anthropological Aspects of Human Sociality (PhD thesis, in preparation for publication)
The phenomenon of human community is the key to understanding human social nature. My thesis presents an account of community that covers three central aspects: The first part focuses on the ontology of human communities, especially with regard to the question whether a general account of community is possible after all given the variety of different forms of community. I argue that such a general account is to be found in Aristotle’s notion of friendship. The second part offers an analysis and explanation of the kind of normativity that is specific to communal life. Finally, the third part concerns the role communities play in human life, that is, the anthropological dimension of human community. Despite the variety of different forms of community, this question can be answered with regard to three central kinds of community: the state or political community, friendship, and the family. The thesis is intended as a contribution to both Analytic Social Ontology and Analytical Thomism.
Articles in Preparation
Die Formen des Guten nach Aristoteles (for a collection of essays on Die ontologischen Grundlagen der aristotelischen Ethik, co-edited by Peter Heuer)
According to Peter Geach, the term ‘good’ is essentially an attributive adjective which requires to be complemented by a noun providing the respective standard of evaluation. For him, consequently, there can be nothing that is good in an absolute sense but only relative to a particular standard. Geach’s view is influential, not only among Aristotelian-minded philosophers. In this article, I argue that a proper Aristotelian understanding of goodness in terms of perfection must leave room for a predicative use of ‘good’, that is, it must allow for an absolute form of goodness.
Evidently Good: Brentano and Aquinas on goodness as perfection
The Aristotelian-Thomistic conception of goodness rests on an inductive speculation about the general nexus between striving and perfection in both non-human nature and human life. Yet, this fact renders it susceptible to sceptical objections which claim that this very nexus cannot be proven true. Resorting to Franz Brentano, I argue that there are particular instances in which the nexus between striving, goodness, and perfection is self-evident. If Brentano is right, the Aristotelian-Thomistic conception of goodness can be defended on epistemological grounds.
Key points of this article have been presented on several occasions.
Being and Activity: Aristotle’s notion of ἐνέργιεα
Aryeh Kosman (2013) and Jonathan Beere (2009) have put forth an understanding of Aristotle’s concept of ἐνέργεια in terms of activity rather than actuality. I argue, on the contrary, that activity can be neither the general nor the primary meaning of ἐνέργεια. A closer examination of the systematic role the concept plays in Aristotle’s metaphysics, especially its relation to the categories, reveals that the traditional understanding as actuality has to be maintained.
Key points of this article have been presented on several occasions and in my review of Kosman’s book.
Geltung und Gerechtigkeit: Reflexionen zum Verhältnis von Recht und Moral (forthcoming 2018 in Rechtsphilosophie. Zeitschrift für Grundlagen des Rechts)
In The Concept of Law, H. L. A. Hart famously claims that Natural Law theorists erroneously make justice a necessary condition of legal validity. Traditional Natural Law, however, takes the relation between morality and positive law to be far more complex. Examining the nature of positive law according to Aristotle, I point out when exactly, and in which sense, the injustice of a law can be said to render it deficient. In the end, Hart’s attack on Natural Law theory turns out to be less convincing than it may appear at first sight.
I presented an earlier version of this article at the 2017 congress of Junges Forum Rechtsphilosophie.