A Theory of the Good

Dissertation, University of Colorado at Boulder (2003)

Abstract
Our lives are flooded with value claims. We evaluate our breakfast and the weather. We evaluate the actions of our politicians and our spouse. We talk of good routes to work and good routes through life. Many of our evaluative claims are a matter of much dispute, and some of these disputes are the most important in our lives, particularly disputes about what is right and wrong, and what makes our lives good. To settle these disputes one must know what is good. ;This dissertation is an attempt to answer that question. I argue that there is only one property of value and it is the property of being rich, of being a unified variety. Examples of richness are living creatures, artworks, ecosystems, societies and human relationships. I begin by developing a definition of richness. Richness turns out to be variety that suggests a unified nomic explanation. Then I argue that our desires are our basic evidence of value and that any good value theory must explain why we desire and value what we do. Given the variety of things we desire and value, one might think that there are a variety of valuable properties; so I give arguments for the claim that the final value theory should be a monistic one. ;Next, I look at several of the things widely held to be valuable and show that we find them valuable in virtue of their richness. I look at beauty, life, knowledge, consciousness, desire-satisfaction, persons and some values from environmental ethics. In addition, I argue that there is a tight connection between love and the good. The proper object of love is the good. But it turns out the proper object of love is also richness. This suggests that richness and the good are one and the same. Finally, I give a refutation of the most common theory of value: hedonism. I argue that proper understandings of pleasure, enjoyment, pain and suffering show that none of these states are intrinsically valuable or disvaluable
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