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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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The Problem of Intelligibility Revisited

The Problem of Intelligibility Revisited

(p.173) Chapter 29 The Problem of Intelligibility Revisited
Against Absolute Goodness

Richard Kraut

Oxford University Press

According to Geach, Foot, and Thomson, it is unintelligible to say that pleasure is, quite simply, good. They hold that there is no useful role for absolute goodness to play in our thinking, but their way of reaching this conclusion is not the one the author of this book has taken. They think that if someone says that pleasure is good, we cannot understand him, because he has unwittingly violated a rule governing the use of “good.” As a result of this mistake, what he says is neither true nor false but meaningless. Admittedly, the sentence “Pleasure is good” seems, on the surface, to be saying something. But speakers who are otherwise competent users of a language can take themselves to be saying something meaningful when, in fact, they are not. We have become accustomed to hearing this sentence and others like it (“knowledge is good,” “virtue is good”). They occur frequently in philosophical texts. Perhaps our familiarity with them keeps us from asking ourselves whether we understand what they are saying.

Keywords:   pleasure, good, Geach, Foot, Thomson, absolute goodness

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