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Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




This work is an examination of the concept of simple goodness and its role in ethicaltheory. I argue on pragmatic and epistemic grounds that simple goodness (SG), commonly referred to as "good simpliciter," is problematic for ethical theory and for ethical discourse generally. I begin by defining SG, focusing on the original account developed by G.E. Moore, and I argue that it is an intrinsic value in several senses. I review the arguments of prominent critics of SG, namely Peter Geach, Judith Jarvis Thomson, and Richard Kraut, who focus on the logical and metaphysical puzzles inherent to the concept of SG. I argue that concerns raised in these critiques can be traced back to Aristotle's critique of the Platonic form of the good. I do share some of these concerns, but I argue that SG faces more serious problems when used in contemporary ethical theory. I apply insights from feminist ethics and applied ethics to demonstrate how SG is used to support faulty methods of moral justification that privilege the perspectives of those with social power to the exclusion of alternative views. I argue SG is primarily invoked to support theoretical idealizations that offer the impression of philosophical sophistication at the expense of moral understanding. Relying on SG obscures moral justification and the lived experience of making and defending moral claims, thereby encouraging us to unreflectively endorse established moral norms. Finally, I suggest that new methods of moral justification being developed by feminist ethicists can provide a solution to the problems that emerge in the wake of my critique of SG.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

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