Monday, December 2, 2013

Korsgaard on the Origin of 'the Good'

Korsgaard distinguishes between two ways that we use the word 'good'.  First, there is the everyday 'evaluative' sense of the word.  For example, when we call something a good book, a good car, a good pair of shoes, a good cup of coffee, etc.  In the evaluative sense, a thing is good according to our goals.  There is also the 'final' sense of good, i.e., 'the good'.  This sense of the word means something like the final aim or total goodness for a thing.  This is often thought to be something that is good for it's own sake (good in itself).  In this paper, Korsgaard is concerned with the nature of 'the good'.

She then contrasts three theories about the final good.  Intrinsic good theory is the theory that goodness is a real property of an object.  For example, an action is morally good as a matter of fact in the same way that my new shoes are red.  Hedonism is the theory that the final good is what makes us happy.  Eudaimonism is the theory that the final good is to function well or to have one's own biological organism in a state of well-being.  Korsgaard argues that the benefit of a eudaimonistic theory is that it can explain the relationship between evaluative good and final good.  In order to explain this, she introduces the extended-evaluative sense of the word.  To be good in the extended-evaluative sense means to be good for some purpose and also be be functioning healthily.  In this sense, to have a final good just means to be aware of oneself as being in good condition.  In other words, having a final good means being able to take an evaluative approach to one's own life.  As such, the final good requires some level of reflexivity.    In other words, to have a final good, one must be aware of one's final good.  It seems that rational consciousness either introduces another kind of final good or it is a more complex awareness of one's own final good.  Either way, having a final good requires reflexivity.

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