Chris’ post on personhood and good people struck a chord with me for a couple of reasons. For one thing, he once again emphasized the operational nature of the categories we use in these cases, something I find very appealing. For another, it seems as though the various specific topics in philosophy always end up drawing you back to the same questions.
You try to ask a question about ethics, and you end up arriving at questions about human nature, identity, and knowledge.
Most of the books I’ve been reading lately on ethics have felt the need to circle round to questions about human nature and epistemology at some point. Drawing on empirical work done by psychologists in pretty popular at this point; one of the really novel things about Daniel Russell’s Happiness for Humans for instance is his use of the literature on bereavement.
It seems as though understanding who we are is inextricably linked to the question of who we should be. But I have to wonder whether this is just the nature of the conversation in philosophy. Diving deep into engineering or computer science or chemistry does not usually lead one to questions about human nature and whether we can build an unshakable metaphysical foundation for understanding these topics.
Maybe philosophers are just too easily distracted.