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NATURAL LAW, IMPARTIALISM, AND OTHERS' GOOD* MARK C. MURPHY Georgetown University Washington, D.C. The title of a recent article by Henry Veatch and Joseph Rautenberg asks "Does the Grisez-Finnis-Boyle Moral Philosophy Rest on a Mistake?'"; the answer that the text of that article produces is, unsurprisingly, "Yes." Veatch and Rautenberg argue that despite superficial similarities between the moral theory defended by Germain Grisez, John Finnis, and Joseph Boyle and the eudaimonist moral theories defended by Aristotle and Aquinas, the Grisez-Finnis-Boyle (hereafter "GFB") view is more akin to utilitarian impartialism than to Aristotelian or Thomistic eudaimonism. I shall argue that although Veatch and Rautenberg are correct to label the GFB view a type of impartialism, they misunderstand both the character of its impartialism and the mistake on which it rests. A clearer understanding of what is at issue between impartialist and eudaimonist natural law theories will bring into focus the severity of the problem faced in trying to decide between these accounts. I Call the thesis that all correct practical reasoning proceeds from one's own good as a principle "eudaimonism"; call the thesis that all correct practical reasoning proceeds from the good * I owe a debt of gratitude to Melissa Barry, Lenn Goodman, Trenton Merricks, and (especially) Thomas Williams for their comments on early drafts of this article. 1 Henry Veatch and Joseph Rautenberg, "Does the Grisez-Finnis-Boyle Moral Philosophy Rest on a Mistake?" Review of Metaphysics 44 (1991): 807-830. 53 54 MARK C. MURPHY impartially considered "impartialism." As Veatch and Rautenberg point out, the GFB view endorses impartialism: from the point of view of practical reason, whether a good is instantiated in you or in me makes no difference.2 This impartialism places the GFB view on the side of the utilitarians against the eudaimonism of Aristotle and Aquinas. That Grisez, Finnis, and Boyle part ways with Aristotle and Aquinas on this issue is, of course, no argument against the GFB view. Veatch and Rautenberg attempt to call the GFB impartialism into question , though, by arguing both that the GFB impartialism has absurd consequences and that the argument by which Grisez, Finnis, and Boyle reach the impartialist thesis contains plain errors. Veatch and Rautenberg hold that the impartialism advocated by the GFB view is a result of modern moral philosophy's disconnecting the concept of a good from that of human needs, desires, and interests: The notion of 'good' [on the 'modern' view] needs to be denatured and completely dissociated from all reference to our liking, desiring, or finding pleasing those things which we take to be good. Instead, all 'goods' are to be converted into so many 'oughts', and as 'oughts' they are to be furthered and pursued.3 On the modern view, to assert that pleasure is a good is to assert only that pleasure ought to be promoted; to say that knowledge is a good is to say only that knowledge ought to be pursued. From this sundering of the relationship between the idea of a good and that of human needs and interests it is a small step 2 Although both utilitarianism and the GFB view endorse impartialism, they differ importantly in that utilitarianism is consequentialist whereas the GFB view is not. To move from the impartialist thesis that the good impartially considered is the starting point for practical reason to the utilitarian thesis that one ought to act so as to maximize overall goodness requires, among other presuppositions, the assumption that another's good and my own are commensurable. This premise the GFB view denies; no two instantiations of basic values between which choice is possible are commensurable. See Germain Grisez, Joseph Boyle, and John Finnis, "Practical Principles, Moral Truth, and Ultimate Ends," American Journal ofJurisprudence 32 (1987): 99-151, esp. 110.· 1 Veatch and Rautenberg, "Grisez-Finnis-Boyle Moral Philosophy," 816. NATURAL LAW, IMPARTIALISM, AND OTHERS' GOOD 55 indeed to impartialism: once goods are no longer such in virtue of anyone's needing or desiring them, there is no reason to promote one's own good over that of anyone else: "Instead, all goods having now been converted into so many 'oughts', it would seem to...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2473-3725
Print ISSN
0040-6325
Pages
pp. 53-80
Launched on MUSE
2017-04-05
Open Access
No
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