Korsgaard, Christine, and . On Having a Good

2014, Philosophy 89(3): 405-29.

Abstract: In some recent papers I have been arguing that the concept ‘good-for’ is prior to the concept of ‘good’ (in the sense in which final ends are good), and exploring the implications of that claim. One of those implications is that everything that is good is good for someone. That implication seems to fall afoul of our intuitions about certain cases, such as the intuition that a world full of happy people and animals is better than a world full of miserable ones, even if the people and animals are different in the two cases, so that there is no one for whom the second world is better. Such cases tempt people to think that there must be impersonal goods, and that what it means to say that something is good for you is that you are the one who ‘has’ some impersonal good. In this paper, I argue that if we approach things in this way, it is impossible to say what the ‘having’ consists of, what relation it names. This leads me to a discussion of various things we do mean by saying that something is good for someone, how they are related to each other, and what sorts of entities can ‘have a good.’ Finally, I explain why we think that a world full of happy people and animals is better than a world full of miserable ones, even if the people and animals are different in the two cases.

Comment: This is a fairly accessible piece arguing that the concept of 'good-for' is prior to 'good', such that nothing is good unless it is good for someone. It is useful for discussions about the sources of value.