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As an adjectival modifier of a noun it is widely accepted that ‘good’ is attributive: a good hammer is so in virtue of different qualities from a good dinner. However, there seems room to say that each gets the verdict because of some relationship to our ends or desires, and one of the traditional tasks of ethics is to say what that relationship is. A simple subjective proposal is made by Hobbes: ‘whatsoever is the object of any man's appetite or desire; that is it which he for his part calleth good’ (Leviathan, i. 6). More objectively, ‘the good’ is used to denote the supposed final end at which action must aim: an intrinsically valuable state, classically identified with eudaimonia, or some compound of happiness, virtue, freedom from care, and success. The relationship between purely private good and social good is then left to be filled in. The good is often identified in economics with the satisfaction of desire or preference, with comparatively little attention paid, in the liberal tradition, to the objects of these desires, or the states of mind likely to ensue if they are satisfied.

Subjects: Philosophy

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