Review of Richard Kraut’s What is Good And Why: The Ethics of Well-Being [Book Review]

Analysis 69 (3):576-8 (2009)
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Anyone familiar with Richard Kraut's work in ancient philosophy will be excited to see him putting aside the dusty tomes of the ancients and delving into ethics first-hand. He does not disappoint. His book is a lucid and wide-ranging discussion that provides at least the core of an ethical theory and an appealing set of answers to a range of ethical questions.Kraut aims to provide an alternative to utilitarianism that preserves the good-centred nature of that theory. He claims that all justification ‘proceeds by way of good and bad’ and that the only way for something to be good or bad is for it to be good or bad for some living thing. He is adamant that this does not commit him to utilitarianism, nor to downplaying considerations such as promise-keeping or special relationships. On Kraut's view, such factors can make it the case that I have more reason to perform one action than another but it is a condition of my having any reason to perform an action that it does some good or impedes some harm. Kraut once seems to dissent from this, claiming that: ‘the strength of a practical reason varies according to ….
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