About | HeinOnline Law Journal Library | HeinOnline Law Journal Library | HeinOnline

63 Tul. L. Rev. 1455 (1988-1989)
Human Flourishing as a Criterion of Morality: A Critique of Perry's Naturalism

handle is hein.journals/tulr63 and id is 1477 raw text is: HUMAN FLOURISHING AS A CRITERION OF
In Morality, Politics, and Law, Michael Perry adumbrates a
naturalist account of moral knowledge.1 According to Perry,
such knowledge is primarily about what sort of person a partic-
ular human being ought to be-what projects she ought to pur-
sue, what commitments she ought to make, what traits of
character she ought to cultivate-if she is to live the most deeply
satisfying life of which she is capable.2 [O]nly secondarily...
[is it about] what choices a particular human being ought to
make in particular situations of choice, given the person she is,
which means, in part, given the person she is committed to
Perry claims that all moral imperatives, though not all
moral judgments, are hypothetical.4 They indicate what a per-
son should do if he wishes to flourish. Why should a person
make a commitment to flourishing? Perry's reply to this ques-
tion is worth quoting at length:
[T]here is no noncircular way to justify the claim 'One ought to
try to flourish.' Any putative justification would presuppose
* Visiting Fellow in Law, New College, Oxford University; Assistant Professor of
Public Law and Jurisprudence, Department of Politics, Princeton University. The author
is grateful to Greg Everts, John Finnis, Dermot Quinn, Adam Sloane, and the editors for
useful comments. He also wishes to acknowledge a generous grant from the George A. and
Eliza Howard Foundation of Brown University that made possible the leave during which
this Essay was written.
1. M. PERRY, MORALITY, POLITICS, AND LAW 10 (1988). The aggressive tone of my
critique of this account should not be taken to reflect a judgment on my part that Perry's
thought is without merit. He has astutely perceived that [n]eo-Kantian talk about
'autonomy' or 'freedom' doesn't begin to compensate for the studied inattention to the
question of the authentically human that characterizes much Anglo-American thought
about law and morals. Id. at 182. By introducing a neo-Aristotelian perspective into the
current debate concerning these matters, Perry makes a substantial contribution to
remedying this lack of attention to the human good.
2. Id. at 11.
3. Id. at 12.
4. Id. at 18.


What Is HeinOnline?

HeinOnline is a subscription-based resource containing thousands of academic and legal journals from inception; complete coverage of government documents such as U.S. Statutes at Large, U.S. Code, Federal Register, Code of Federal Regulations, U.S. Reports, and much more. Documents are image-based, fully searchable PDFs with the authority of print combined with the accessibility of a user-friendly and powerful database. For more information, request a quote or trial for your organization below.

Short-term subscription options include 24 hours, 48 hours, or 1 week to HeinOnline.

Contact us for annual subscription options:

Already a HeinOnline Subscriber?

profiles profiles most