The Problem of Intelligibility Revisited

Richard Kraut

in Against Absolute Goodness

Published in print January 2012 | ISBN: 9780199844463
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199919550 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Moral Theory

The Problem of Intelligibility Revisited

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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

Chapter.  1760 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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