Richard Kraut
Copyright Date: 2007
Published by: Harvard University Press
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    What is good, how do we know, and how important is it? In this book, one of our most respected analytical philosophers reorients these questions around the notion of what causes human beings to flourish. Observing that we can sensibly address what is good for plants and animals no less than what is good for people, Kraut applies a general principle to the entire living world: what is good for complex organisms consists in the exercise of their natural powers.

    eISBN: 978-0-674-02708-4
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  4. ONE In Search of Good
    (pp. 1-65)

    “Good,” its linguistic relatives (“better,” “best,” “well”), their opposites, and corresponding terms in other languages pervade the vocabulary of everyday life. With their help, we arrive at conclusions about what to choose and what to do. We want not just to eat, but to eat good food; not just to make plans, but to make good plans; not just to have friends, but to have good friends. If we lacked a vocabulary for making such evaluations and still finer distinctions (“good, but not as good as”), decision making would be an impoverished enterprise.

    “Good” goes even deeper than that. When...

  5. TWO Good, Conation, and Pleasure
    (pp. 66-130)

    We are now ready to turn to a new set of problems. We are looking for a nonutilitarian ethical theory that nonetheless resembles utilitarianism in the way it gives supremacy, in practical reasoning, to considerations of good and harm. Whose good, and whose harm? That depends on the circumstances. No simple formula has survived as an adequate answer to that question. There is no reason to pick out only oneself as the person whose good one should aim at. There is no reason to suppose that nothing less than the good of all must be the object of our concern....

  6. THREE Prolegomenon to Flourishing
    (pp. 131-204)

    A good theory of well-being should be built on a root idea that is obvious, widely recognized, and rich in implications. Clearly, flourishing is a good thing—good for what is flourishing. We can talk about a flourishing or thriving business or legal practice, but flourishing is primarily a biological phenomenon: “flower” and “flourish” are cognates. Above all, it is plants, animals, and human beings that flourish when conditions are favorable. They do so by developing properly and fully, that is, by growing, maturing, making full use of the potentialities, capacities, and faculties that (under favorable conditions) they naturally have...

  7. FOUR The Sovereignty of Good
    (pp. 205-274)

    Although the two principal questions posed by this work have now been addressed, there remains a third, which was raised in Chapter 1 but left unanswered: what role should good and bad (that is, what is good or badforsome living being) play in our thoughts and actions? Utilitarianism places these values at the center of all good practical reasoning by holding that the quantity of good and harm we do is the only consideration that should figure in our deliberations. We rejected, almost from the start (sections 4, 12), the principle that good should be maximized. Even so,...

  8. Works Cited
    (pp. 275-280)
  9. Index
    (pp. 281-286)