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. (shrink)
Aristotle conceives of ethical theory as a field distinct from the theoretical sciences. Its methodology must match its subject matter—good action—and must respect the fact that in this field many generalizations hold only for the most part. We study ethics in order to improve our lives, and therefore its principal concern is the nature of human well-being. Aristotle follows Socrates and Plato in taking the virtues to be central to a well-lived life. Like Plato, he regards the ethical virtues (justice, (...) courage, temperance and so on) as complex rational, emotional and social skills. But he rejects Plato's idea that a training in the sciences and metaphysics is a necessary prerequisite for a full understanding of our good. What we need, in order to live well, is a proper appreciation of the way in which such goods as friendship, pleasure, virtue, honor and wealth fit together as a whole. In order to apply that general understanding to particular cases, we must acquire, through proper upbringing and habits, the ability to see, on each occasion, which course of action is best supported by reasons. Therefore practical wisdom, as he conceives it, cannot be acquired solely by learning general rules. We must also acquire, through practice, those deliberative, emotional, and social skills that enable us to put our general understanding of well-being into practice in ways that are suitable to each occasion. (shrink)
Aristotle's doctrine that human beings are political animals is, in part, an empirical thesis, and posits an inclination to enter into cooperative relationships, even apart from the instrumental benefits of doing so. Aristotle's insight is that human cooperation rests on a non-rational propensity to trust even strangers, when conditions are favorable. Turning to broader questions about the role of nature in human development, I situate Aristotle's attitude towards our natural propensities between two extremes: he rejects both the view that we (...) must bow to whatever nature dictates, and also the view that nature is generally or always to be suppressed or overcome. This middle position requires that Aristotle hold nature and goodness apart, so that the latter can serve as a standard for evaluating the former. He holds that nature does not treat all human beings alike: just as some are handicapped in their development by a deficiency in their natural abilities or propensities, others are extraordinarily fortunate and have so powerful a disposition to act well that they easily acquire good habits and skills of practical reasoning. Further, he recognizes that sociable inclinations and natural virtues have to compete in the human soul with other natural forces that make ethical life extraordinarily difficult. That is why things so often go so badly for us: we need not only to subdue the external environment, but to overcome certain inner natural obstacles as well. Even so, for Aristotle ethical life is not generally alienated from nature, as it is for other philosophers. Footnotesa I am grateful to David Keyt and Fred Miller, and to the other contributors to this volume, for their helpful comments on the previous draft of this paper. (shrink)
In search of good -- A Socratic question -- Flourishing and well-being -- Mind and value -- Utilitarianism -- Rawls and the priority of the right -- Right, wrong, should -- The elimination of moral rightness -- Rules and good -- Categorical imperatives -- Conflicting interests -- Whose good? The egoist's answer -- Whose good? The utilitarian's answer - Self-denial, self-love, universal concern -- Pain, self-love, and altruism -- Agent-neutrality and agent-relativity -- Good, conation, and pleasure -- "Good" and "good (...) for" -- "Good for" and advantage -- "Good that" and "Bad that" -- Pleasure and advantage -- Good for S that P -- The "for" of "good for" -- Plants, animals, humans -- Ross on human nature -- The perspectival reading of "good for" -- The conative approach to well-being -- Abstracting from the content of desires and plans -- The faulty mechanisms of desire formation -- Infants and adults -- The conation of an ideal self -- The appeal of the conative theory -- Conation hybridized -- Strict hedonism -- Hedonism diluted -- Prolegomenon to flourishing -- Development and flourishing: the general theory -- Development and flourishing: the human case -- More examples of what is good -- Appealing to nature -- Sensory un-flourishing -- Affective flourishing and un-flourishing -- Hobbes on tranquility and restlessness -- Flourishing and un-flourishing as a social being -- Cognitive flourishing and un-flourishing -- Sexual flourishing and un-flourishing -- Too much and too little -- Comparing lives and stages of life -- Adding goods: Rawls's principle of inclusiveness -- Art, science, and culture -- Self-sacrifice -- The vanity of fame -- The vanity of wealth -- Making others worse-off -- Virtues and flourishing -- The good of autonomy -- What is good and why -- The sovereignty of good -- The importance of what is good for us -- Good's insufficiency -- Promises -- Retribution -- Cosmic justice -- Social justice -- Pure antipaternalism -- Moral space and giving aid -- Slavery -- Torture -- Moral rightness revisited -- Lying -- Honoring the dead -- Meaningless goals and symbolic value -- Good-independent realms of value -- Good thieves and good human beings -- Final thoughts. (shrink)
Artworld Metaphysics turns a critical eye upon aspects of the artworld, and articulates some of the problems, principles, and norms implicit in the actual practices of artistic creation, interpretation, evaluation, and commodification. Aesthetic theory is treated as descriptive and explanatory, rather than normative: a theory that relates to artworld realities as a semantic theory relates to the fragments of natural language it seeks to describe. Robert Kraut examines emotional expression, correct interpretation and objectivity in the context of artworld practice, the (...) relevance of jazz to aesthetic theory, and the goals of ontology (artworld and otherwise). He also considers the relation between art and language, the confusions of postmodern relativism, and the relation between artistic/critical practice and aesthetic theory. (shrink)
The Blackwell Guide to Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics illuminates Aristotle’s ethics for both academics and students new to the work, with sixteen newly commissioned essays by distinguished international scholars. The structure of the book mirrors the organization of the Nichomachean Ethics itself. Discusses the human good, the general nature of virtue, the distinctive characteristics of particular virtues, voluntariness, self-control, and pleasure.
Pickering & Garrod's (P&G's) theory of dialogue production cannot completely explain recent data showing that when interactants in referential communication tasks have different views of a physical space, they accommodate their language to their partner's view rather than mimicking their partner's expressions. Instead, these data are consistent with the hypothesis that interactants are taking the perspective of their conversational partners.
This book offers a systematic overview of Aristotle's conception of well-being, virtue and justice in the Nicomachean Ethics, and then explores the major themes of Politics: civic-mindedness, slavery, family, property, the common good, class conflict, the limited wisdom of the multitude, and the radically egalitarian institutions of the ideal society.
Mathematical practice prompts theories about aprioricity, necessity, abstracta, and non-causal epistemic connections. But it is not clear what to count as the data: mathematical necessity or the appearance of mathematical necessity, abstractness or apparent abstractness, a prioricity or apparent aprioricity. Nor is it clear whether traditional metaphysical theories provide explanation or idle redescription. This paper suggests that abstract objects, rather than doing explanatory work, provide codifications of the data to be explained. It also suggests that traditional rivals—conceptualism, nominalism, realism—engage different (...) explanatory projects, and thus are not rivals at all. (shrink)
Abstract In Liberty and Nature, Rasmussen and Den Uyl use an Aristotelian conception of the human good to provide a foundation for libertarianism. Their principal argument is that intelligence and virtue are necessary ingredients in every flourishing human life, but since these are not goods that the state can distribute to individuals, governments can play only a modest role in promoting the common good. The state best promotes the well?being of its citizens by allowing them to, pursue happiness in (...) a manner of their own choosing, and defending them against those who would invade their moral boundaries. (shrink)
When wc compare contemporary moral philosophy with thc wcll-known moral systems of earlier centuries, wc should bc struck by thc fact that a certain assumption about human well being that is now widely taken for granted was universally rcjcctcd in thc past. The contemporary moral climate prcdisposcs us to bc pluralistic about thc human good, whcrcas earlier systems of ethics embraced a conception of wcll being that wc would now call narrow and restrictive. One way to convey thc sort of (...) contrast I have in mind is to note that according to Plato and Aristotle, there is one kind of lifc, that of thc philosopher, that rcprcscnts thc summit of human tlourishing, and all other lives arc worth leading to thc cxtcnt that they approximate this ideal. Certain other ethical theories of thc past were in a way more narrow than this, for whereas Plato and Aristotle maintained that many things are in thcmsclvcs worthwhile, others argued that there is only one intrinsic g00d—plcasurc according to thc Epicurcans, virtue according to thc Stoics. By contrast, it is now widely assumed that all such approaches arc too exclusive, that not only arc there many typcs of intrinsic goods but there is no cnc specific kind of lifc—whcthcr it is that of a philosopher or a poet or anyone clsc—that is thc single human ideal} Even hedonism, a conception of thc good that had a powerful influence in thc modern period, has few contemporary proponents. A consensus has arisen in our time that there is no single ultimate cud that provides thc measure by which thc worth of all other goods must bc assessed. (shrink)
Plato stands as the fount of our philosophical tradition, being the first Western thinker to produce a body of writing that touches upon a wide range of topics still discussed by philosophers today. In a sense he invented philosophy as a distinct subject, for although many of these topics were discussed by his intellectual predecessors and contemporaries, he was the first to bring them together by giving them a unitary treatment. This volume contains fourteen new essays discussing Plato's views about (...) knowledge, reality, mathematics, politics, ethics, love, poetry, and religion. There are also analyses of the intellectual and social background of his thought, the development of his philosophy throughout his career, the range of alternative approaches to his work, and the stylometry of his writing. (shrink)