What Is Good and Why

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

3.96 (26 ratings by Goodreads)
By (author) 

Free delivery worldwide

Available. Expected delivery to the United States in 16-21 business days.

Not ordering to the United States? Click here.


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.
show more

Product details

  • Paperback | 304 pages
  • 156 x 235 x 20.32mm | 476.27g
  • Cambridge, Mass, United States
  • English
  • 0674032373
  • 9780674032378
  • 626,042

Table of contents

Acknowledgments 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 Index
show more

Review quote

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 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 Continuing in the tradition of Socrates and Plato, Kraut seeks to examine the nature of 'goodness' and proposes that 'we should ask what we commit ourselves to when we call something good for someone.'...According to Kraut, goodness is not a mind-constructed value, nor is it related to moral concepts such as right and wrong. Instead, it is based on existent world values. These values all contain similar characteristics that add to our cognitive, social, and physical well-being. Through coherent writing and familiar examples, Kraut does a wonderful job of showing that what is good does not require abstract analysis but can instead be found by combining common sense and rationality. -- Scott Duimstra * Library Journal * Have Rawls and Nozick met their match? The titans of late-twentieth-century social philosophy do indeed find an acute critic--and possible successor--in Kraut. For in this groundbreaking inquiry into the nature of goodness, Kraut exposes the inadequacy of all previous ethical thinking, including Rawls' and Nozick's. Kraut is particularly thorough in his demolition of the cognitive theory that requires each individual to construct his or her own definition of the good. Because good must mean good for, Kraut argues, human good finally entails whatever fosters human flourishing, a flourishing that almost everyone can recognize and agree on...Religious-minded readers may protest that Kraut metaphysically impoverishes human goodness when he explicitly rejects immortality. But many other readers will praise him for enriching contemporary dialogue about fundamental ethical questions. An essential acquisition in social philosophy. -- Bryce Christensen * Booklist (starred review) * The view [Kraut] develops, while having affinities with other recent work, is nevertheless substantially original and worked out in impressive detail. -- Guy Kahane * Times Higher Education Supplement * Offers an original, persuasive, and substantial defense of an Aristotelian approach to ethics for today. His central claim is that all good practical arguments in ethics rest on claims about what is good or bad for someone. Like utilitarianism, Kraut places good at the heart of morality-but without what he regards as its misplaced emphasis on desire satisfaction, quantification, or maximization. Like Kantianism, Kraut recognizes the importance of considerations of duty and justice-but without what he regards as its failure to ground them in harm and benefit to others. Kraut situates his approach within contemporary discussions of ethical theory, considering, for example, John Rawis, Thomas Nagel, T. M. Scanlon, James Griffin, and Joseph Raz, as well as older theorists such as Jeremy Bentham, J. S. Mill, Henry Sidgwick, G. E. Moore, and W. D. Ross. This approach gives his work depth and relevance, though he discusses few in detail. In summary, this volume offers a robust defense of a non-Kantian, nonutilitarian approach to ethics. -- H. Oberdiek * Choice *
show more

About Richard Kraut

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

Rating details

26 ratings
3.96 out of 5 stars
5 27% (7)
4 46% (12)
3 23% (6)
2 4% (1)
1 0% (0)
Book ratings by Goodreads
Goodreads is the world's largest site for readers with over 50 million reviews. We're featuring millions of their reader ratings on our book pages to help you find your new favourite book. Close X