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What Is Good and Why: The Ethics of Well-Being

What Is Good and Why: The Ethics of Well-Being

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

Drawing on the insights of ancient Greek philosophy, Kraut develops this thought into a good-centered moral philosophy, an "ethics of well-being" that requires all of our efforts to do some good. Even what is good of a kind—good poems no less than good people—must be good for someone. Pleasure plays a key role in this idea of flourishing life, but Kraut opposes the current philosophical orthodoxy of well-being, which views a person's welfare as a construct of rational desires or plans, actual or ideal.

The practical upshot of Kraut's theory is that many common human pursuits—for riches, fame, domination—are in themselves worthless, while some of the familiar virtues—justice, honesty, and autonomy—are good for every human being.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780674032378
Publisher: Harvard
Publication date: 05/15/2009
Pages: 304
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Richard Kraut is Charles and Emma Morrison Professor in the Humanities at Northwestern University.

Table of Contents


Part I: In Search of Good

1. A Socratic Question

2. Flourishing and Well-Being

3. Mind and Value

4. Utilitarianism

5. Rawls and the Priority of the Right

6. Right, Wrong, Should

7. The Elimination of Moral Rightness

8. Rules and Good

9. Categorical Imperatives

10. Conflicting Interests

11. Whose Good? The Egoist's Answer

12. Whose Good? The Utilitarian's Answer

13. Self-Denial, Self-Love, Universal Concern

14. Pain, Self-Love, and Altruism

15. Agent-Neutrality and Agent-Relativity

Part II: Good, Conation, and Pleasure

16. "Good" and "Good for"

17. "Good for" and Advantage

18. "Good that" and "Bad that"

19. Pleasure and Advantage

20. Good for S That P

21. The "for" of "Good for"

22. Plants, Animals, Humans

23. Ross on Human Nature

24. The Perspectival Reading of "Good for"

25. The Conative Approach to Well-Being

26. Abstracting from the Content of Desires and Plans

27. The Faulty Mechanisms of Desire Formation

28. Infants and Adults

29. The Conation of an Ideal Self

30. The Appeal of the Conative Theory

31. Conation Hybridized

32. Strict Hedonism

33. Hedonism Diluted

Part III: Prolegomenon to Flourishing

34. Development and Flourishing: The General Theory

35. Development and Flourishing: The Human Case

36. More Examples of What Is Good

37. Appealing to Nature

38. Sensory Un-flourishing

39. Affective Flourishing and Un-flourishing

40. Hobbes on Tranquillity and Restlessness

41. Flourishing and Un-flourishing as a Social Being

42. Cognitive Flourishing and Un-flourishing

43. Sexual Flourishing and Un-flourishing

44. Too Much and Too Little

45. Comparing Lives and Stages of Life

46. Adding Goods: Rawls's Principle of Inclusiveness

47. Art, Science, and Culture

48. Self-Sacrifice

49. The Vanity of Fame

50. The Vanity of Wealth

51. Making Others Worse-Off

52. Virtues and Flourishing

53. The Good of Autonomy

54. What Is Good and Why

Part IV: The Sovereignty of Good

55. The Importance of What Is Good for Us

56. Good's Insufficiency

57. Promises

58. Retribution

59. Cosmic Justice

60. Social Justice

61. Pure Antipaternalism

62. Moral Space and Giving Aid

63. Slavery

64. Torture

65. Moral Rightness Revisited

66. Lying

67. Honoring the Dead

68. Meaningless Goals and Symbolic Value

69. Good-Independent Realms of Value

70. Good Thieves and Good Human Beings

71. Final Thoughts

Works Cited


What People are Saying About This

C. D. C. Reeve

What is Good and Why is filled not just with clearly expressed and compelling philosophical arguments, but with a lot of sound practical wisdom. It is enjoyable, enlightening, and also quite revolutionary. It deserves--and will benefit--a very wide readership.
C. D. C. Reeve, author of Love's Confusions

Samuel Freeman

Kraut's account fills a wide gap in the literature. What is Good and Why is a superb work, one that should have long-lasting influence.

Samuel Freeman, University of Pennsylvania

Customer Reviews