Jacques Maritain Center: Ethics Without God?

Aristotle vs. the Neo-Darwinians on Human Nature and the Foundations of Ethics

Tuesday, July 15
Afternoon session
Marie I. George

My thesis is that one of the principal problems with ethics today is not that it is without God, but that it is without a proper understanding of nature. Whence my choice of examining the Neo-Darwinians and Aristotle. The Neo-Darwinians bring to their moral theory certain conceptions about nature and they are on the whole explicitly atheist or agnostic. I will argue that their concept of nature is faulty, and that it is this, rather than their atheism per se, that poses an obstacle to their arriving at ethical truths. I will contrast their view of nature with that of Aristotle, and go on from there to make a case that it is Aristotle's understanding of nature, and not his theism, that allows him to get a sound ethics off the ground. At the same time I acknowledge that formulating a science of ethics using reason alone is a rather iffy enterprise, and one that is greatly assisted by Divine Revelation.