Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement


Apprehending Human Form

Michael Thompson

My immediate aim in this lecture is to contribute something to the apt characterization of our representation and knowledge of the specifically human life form, as I will put it—and, to some extent, of things ‘human’ more generally. In particular I want to argue against an exaggerated empiricism about such cognition. Meditation on these themes might be pursued as having a kind of interest of its own, an epistemological and in the end metaphysical interest, but my own purpose in the matter is practical-philosophical. I want to employ my theses to make room for a certain range of doctrines in ethical theory and the theory of practical rationality—doctrines, namely, of natural normativity or natural goodness, as we may call them. I am not proposing to attempt a positive argument for any such ‘neo-Aristotelian’ position, but merely to defend such views against certain familiar lines of objection; and even here my aims will be limited, as will be seen.

Michael Thompson, Associate Professor of Philosophy, University of Pittsburgh.