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Hedonism and the Variety of Goodness


This article defends the project of giving a single pleasure-based account of goodness against what may seem a powerful challenge. Aristotle, Peter Geach and Judith Thomson have argued that there is no such thing as simply being good; there is only (for example) being a good knife or a good painting (Geach), being serene or good to eat (Thomson), or being good in essence or in qualities (Aristotle). But I argue that these philosophers’ evidence is friendly to the hedonist project. For, I argue, hedonistic accounts of goodness tend to imply that the unqualified term ‘good’ has little or no application to the things we talk about; while if we qualify hedonic goodness in certain ways, we generate usable predicates that match the varieties of goodness recognized by the three philosophers. And those qualifications happen to be natural interpretations of signals we do use alongside ‘good’, such as ‘knife’.

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Judith Thomson , ‘Goodness and Utilitarianism’, Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association 67.4 (Jan. 1994)

Peter Geach , ‘Good and Evil’, Analysis 17 (1956)

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  • ISSN: 0953-8208
  • EISSN: 1741-6183
  • URL: /core/journals/utilitas
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