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Against Absolute Goodness$
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Richard Kraut

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199844463

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199844463.001.0001

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Impersonality: An Ethical Objection to Absolute Goodness

Impersonality: An Ethical Objection to Absolute Goodness

(p.79) Chapter 14 Impersonality: An Ethical Objection to Absolute Goodness
Against Absolute Goodness

Richard Kraut

Oxford University Press

This chapter considers what happens when absolute value points us in one direction but relative value pulls us in the opposite direction—when, for example, there is a conflict between doing what is bad for someone and doing what is assumed to be absolutely good. If absolute goodness is an important reason-giving property, we would expect that sometimes we should do something because it is absolutely good, even though we thereby bring about what is bad for someone. If the goodness (period) of an option we are considering is large enough, it should provide a reason that is sufficiently strong to justify undertaking actions that we recognize to be harmful. But it is doubtful that doing what is bad for someone can be justified in this way—and the explanation is that absolute goodness (and badness) are not genuine reasons.

Keywords:   absolute value, relative value, goodness, badness

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