Against Absolute Goodness

ISBN : 9780199844463

Richard Kraut
240 ページ
146 x 217 mm
Oxford Moral Theory

Are there things we should value because they are, quite simply, good? If so, such things might be said to have "absolute goodness." They would be good simpliciter or full stop - not good for someone, not good of a kind, but nonetheless good (period). They might also be called "impersonal values." The reason why we ought to value such things, if there are any, would merely be the fact that they are, quite simply, good things. In the twentieth century, G. E. Moore was the great champion of absolute goodness, but he is not the only philosopher who posits the existence and importance of this property. Against these friend of absolute goodness, Richard Kraut here builds the argument he made in WHAT IS GOOD AND WHY, demonstrating that goodness is not a reason-giving property - in fact, there may be no such thing. It is, he holds, an insidious category of practical thought, because it can be and has been used to justify what is harmful and condemn what is beneficial. Impersonal value draws us away from what is good for persons. His strategy for opposing absolute goodness is to search for domains of practical reasoning in which it might be thought to be needed, and this leads him to an examination of a wide variety of moral phenomena: pleasure, knowledge, beauty, love, cruelty, suicide, future generations, bio-diversity, killing in self-defense, and the extinction of our species. Even persons, he proposes, should not be said to have absolute value. The special importance of human life rests instead on the great advantages that such lives normally offer. "When one reads this, one sees the possibility of real philosophical progress. If Kraut is right, I'd be wrong to say that this book is good, period. Or even great, period. But I will say that, as a work of philosophy, and for those who read it, it is excellent indeed." - Russ Shafer-Landau, Philosophy, University of Wisconsin-Madison


1. Moore and the Idea of Goodness
2. Goodness Before and After Moore
3. An Argument for Absolute Goodness
4. Absolute Evil, Relative Goodness
5. Recent Skepticism about Goodness
6. Being Good and Being Good for Someone
7. Non-Instrumental Advantageousness
8. The Problem of Intelligibility
9. The Problem of Double Value
10. Pleasure Reconsidered
11. Scanlon's Buck-Passing Account of Value
12. Moore's Argument Against Relative Goodness
13. Goodness and Variability
14. Impersonality: an Ethical Objection to Absolute Goodness
15. Further Reflections on the Ethical Objection
16. Moore's Mistake About Unobserved Beauty
17. Better States of Affairs and Buck-Passing
18. The Enjoyment of Beauty
19. Is Love Absolutely Good?
20. Is Cruelty Absolutely Bad?
21. Kant on Suicide
22. Future Generations
23. Bio-Diversity
24. Is Equality Absolutely Good?
25. The Value of Persons and Other Creatures
26. Euthanasia
27. The Extinction of Humankind
28. The Case Against Absolute Goodness Reviewed
29. The Problem of Intelligibility Revisited
30. Attributive and Predicative Uses of "
Appendix A: Killing Persons
Appendix B: J. David Velleman on the Value Inhering in Persons
Appendix C: Robert Merrihew Adams on the Highest Good
Appendix D: Thomas Hurka on the Structure of Goods
Appendix E: Jeff McMahan on Impersonal Value
Appendix F: Other Authors and Uses
1. Plato
2. Aristotle
3. John Rawls
4. John Broome


Richard Kraut was educated at the University of Michigan and Princeton University. He has taught in the Philosophy Departments at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and Northwestern University, where he is Charles E. and Emma H. Morrison Professor in the Humanities.