Against Absolute Goodness

Richard H Kraut*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Book/ReportBook

59 Scopus citations


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 20th 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, this book 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, the book 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. The book's 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 the book 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, the book 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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages224
ISBN (Electronic)9780199919550
ISBN (Print)9780199844463
StatePublished - Jan 19 2012


  • Absolute Goodness
  • G. E. Moore
  • Good
  • Impersonal Values
  • Practical Reasoning
  • Property
  • Value

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)


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