Forty years after its original publication, Liberty Fund brings back to print Henry Veatch’s path-breaking popular presentation of virtue ethics. This modern interpretation of Aristotelian ethics is a natural for undergraduate philosophy courses. It is also an engaging work for the expert and the beginner alike, offering a middle ground between existential and analytic ethics.
Veatch argues for the existence of ethical knowledge, and he reasons that this knowledge is grounded in human nature. Yet he contends that the moral life is not merely one of following rules or recipes, nor is human well-being something simple. Rather, the moral life, which Veatch calls “rational or intelligent living,” is the life of practical wisdom where individual judgment of the particular and the contingent is paramount. Veatch’s Rational Man offers a pluralistic understanding of human well-being without lapsing into moral relativism.
For those interested in morality and liberty, Rational Man offers fertile ground for developing an account of free and responsible persons. It has profoundly influenced the work of Den Uyl, Campbell, Machan, Miller, Mack, and many others.
Henry Babcock Veatch (1911–1999) was born in Evansville, Indiana, and educated at Harvard. He was recognized as one of the leading neo-Aristotelian philosophers of the twentieth century. Besides Rational Man, he was the author of Intentional Logic; Realism and Nominalism Revisited; Aristotle: A Contemporary Appreciation; and many others.