What Is Good?


The word good has many meanings. It is often used as an adjective, describing something positive or desirable. It can also be used as an adverb, in phrases like “all is well” or “that’s good.” In some contexts, it can be used as a noun, referring to someone or something that is of high quality or standard.

There are several kinds of good, including physical, psychological, and moral. In philosophy, the concept of good is central to philosophical thought. Philosophers have developed many different theories of what good is, and most of these have important implications for ethics.

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When people talk about the good life, they usually mean living in a way that maximizes pleasure and minimizes pain. During antiquity, most philosophers emphasized this idea, although there were some schools that leaned toward hedonism. The most common theory of the good was that human beings are essentially rational animals, and that the good life involves exercising rationality to achieve goals of happiness, fulfillment, or self-realization.

In contemporary society, the good life has become a major focus of ethical debates. For some, it is a life filled with riches and status; for others, it is a life that promotes human flourishing and consists of practices such as exercising the virtues of kindness, generosity, and compassion. Still others think that the good life is a process of moral perfection, whereby individuals strive to overcome vices and achieve excellence.

In this excellent book, Richard Kraut takes on the difficult task of explaining the nature of good. His argument is that we must recognize that our evaluations of what is good and why are central to the process of deliberation. He suggests that, despite appearances, most of the pursuits we commonly regard as good are ultimately worthless; while some familiar virtues such as justice, honesty, and autonomy are, in fact, very important indeed. The book fills a gap in the literature on the nature of good and should have wide influence.