Editor’s note: The following interview appears in the Fall 2020 issue of Eikon.
Ryan T. Anderson is the William E. Simon Senior Research Fellow in American Principles & Public Policy and Founding Editor of Public Discourse.
Andrew T. Walker is Associate Professor of Christian Ethics at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and the Executive Editor of Eikon.
ATW: Can you explain the “basic goods” of natural law — their identity? Is the concept of a “basic good” elastic or is all human action reducible to these categories?
RTA: Sure, the idea here is one taken right from the beginning of Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics. That all human actions are for ends, ends that the agent perceives as beneficial (and, in that sense, valuable, worthwhile, good). So you could treat basic goods — the ends one pursues for their intrinsic worth, and not merely as means to other ends — as synonymous with basic ends. Then the question becomes one of identifying what…