Attributive and Predicative Uses of  “Good”

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

Attributive and Predicative Uses of  “Good”

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Geach and Thomson believe that Moore makes a terrible mistake about the word “good.” In their words, he failed to see that it is an “attributive adjective” rather than a “predicative adjective.” What they mean is this: Moore says near the beginning of Principia Ethica that when someone speaks of good conduct, a good book, or any good thing, he is using a complex notion that must be taken apart. To understand what good conduct is we must separately look at those two things: goodness and conduct. Goodness is the property that all good things—a good book, a good act, a good man—have in common. It follows from Moore's way of thinking about goodness that even the mundane judgment that something is (for example) a good toaster can be analyzed as containing two independent subclaims: first, it is good; second, it is a toaster. But as Geach saw, that is a mistake. To call something a good toaster is to evaluate it as a toaster. It is to compare it favorably with other toasters. To evaluate it in this way is not to attribute to it first the property of being good and then also, as a separate matter, the property of being a toaster. This chapter contends that successful arguments against the friends of absolute goodness cannot be found, if, like those of Geach and Thomson, they bypass the question posed in this investigation: what work can be done with the concept of absolute goodness in moral philosophy?

Keywords: Geach; Thomson; Moore; good; moral philosophy

Chapter.  2522 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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