- Social Philosophy and Social Ontology
- Ethics (esp. love and virtue)
- Ancient Greek Philosophy (esp. Aristotle)
- Phenomenology (esp. Brentano and Husserl)
- Philosophy of Religion
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.
Community: The Fundamental Structures of Human Sociality (book manuscript, in preparation)
This book presents a systematic account of human community by reintroducing ideas from Aristotelian and Thomistic philosophy into the field of Analytic Social Ontology. The book builds on Aristotle’s concept of friendship to develop a general account of different kinds of community and their specific norms. Moreover, it shows that this Aristotelian account of community is indispensable for understanding the specific form of human social life.
Articles in Preparation
Aristotle, the Good, and Species-Relativity
According to Peter Geach (1956), 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.
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.
Cooperation, Community, and Institution (for a collected volume on contemporary and medieval social ontologies, edited by J. Pelletier and Chr. Rode)
There are two approaches to the phenomenon of community in contemporary social ontology. The first one, advocated by Margaret Gilbert (1989), attempts to account for community in terms of cooperation or joint action. By elucidating the nature of collective action, Gilbert believes, we also come to understand more complex forms of collectivity such as communities. The second approach, by John Searle (1997 and 2010), conceives of community as an institutional entity. For Searle, communities are constituted by the collective assignment of a particular status to a set of people. In this paper, I show that both these approaches ultimately fail. Drawing on the social philosophy of Thomas Aquinas, I then develop an alternative account of community according to which every community in grounded in some form of love or friendship. This account provides a more accurate picture of the relation between community, on the one hand, and cooperation and institution, on the other. The paper thus shows how Aquinas’s philosophy can be used today to make an original contribution to the current debate in social ontology.
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.