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The Project

Over the last few decades, there has been a notable rediscovery of human capacities in epistemology and ethics. In particular, a growing number of philosophers in both areas have come to refer to capacities in order to answer questions of value or normativity: virtue epistemologists have come to argue that knowledge is better than mere true belief in virtue of stemming from the agent’s epistemic capacities, while many virtue ethicists hold that the value of good action can be explained, at least in part, by its issuing from a particular type of capacities, i.e. the virtues.

This development ties in with the enormous revival of interest in powers and dispositions which contemporary metaphysics has witnessed over the last 25. But while epistemologists and ethicists often expect the appeal to capacities to do specific normative or evaluative work, questions of normativity and value are conspicuously absent from debates on powers and dispositions in contemporary metaphysics. So the question naturally arises of how powers, as discussed in contemporary metaphysics, and capacities are meant to do the work that is expected of them in virtue epistemology and virtue ethics.

The aim of Capacities and the good is to investigate both into the features of capacities which seem especially relevant for grounding evaluative and normative truths, and into the two main “mechanisms“ discussed in contemporary metaethics, which could explain how capacities could give rise to value or normativity: ethical naturalism and ethical constitutivism. In doing so, we do not only want to answer a set of questions which have become important in the different areas in their own right, but also to provide an intra-disciplinary dialogue that ties together various areas and questions from philosophy through their shared concern in capacities.