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 friends of absolute goodness, Richard Kraut
here builds on 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, University of
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