I like these thought puzzles.
There is something mysterious about the notion of ‘good for’. Consider a possible world that contains only a single item: a stunning Vermeer painting. Leave aside any doubts you might have about whether paintings can be good in a world without viewers, and accept for the sake of argument that this painting has aesthetic value in that world. It seems intuitively plausible to claim that the value of this world is constituted solely by the aesthetic value of the painting. But now consider a world which contains one individual living a life that is good for them. How are to describe the relationship between the value of this world, and the value of the life lived in it for the individual? Are we to say that the world has a value at all? How can it, if the only value it contains is ‘good for’ as opposed to just ‘good’? And yet we surely do want to say that this world is better (‘more good’) than some other empty world. Well, should we say that the world is good, and is so because of the good it contains ‘for’ the individual? This fails to capture the idea that there is in fact nothing of value in this world except what is good for the individual.
Thoughts such as these led G.E. Moore to object to the very idea of ‘good for’ (Moore 1903, pp. 98–9). Moore argued that the idea of ‘my own good’, which he saw as equivalent to what is ‘good for me’, makes no sense. When I speak of, say, pleasure as what is good for me, he claimed, I can mean only either that the pleasure I get is good, or that my getting it is good. Nothing is added by saying that the pleasure constitutes my good, or is good for me.
But the distinctions I drew between different categories of value above show that Moore’s analysis of the claim that my own good consists in pleasure is too narrow. Indeed Moore’s argument rests on the very assumption that it seeks to prove: that only the notion of ‘good’ is necessary to make all the evaluative judgements we might wish to make. The claim that it is good that I get pleasure is, logically speaking, equivalent to the claim that the world containing the single Vermeer is good. It is, so to speak, ‘impersonal’, and leaves out of account the special feature of the value of well-being: that it is good for individuals.
Indeed, one way to respond both to Moore’s challenge, and to the puzzles above, is to try, when appropriate, to do without the notion of ‘good’ (see Kraut 2011) and make do with ‘good for’, alongside the separate and non-evaluative notion of reasons for action. Thus, the world containing the single individual with a life worth living, might be said to contain nothing good per se, but a life that is good for that individual. And this fact may give us a reason to bring about such a world, given the opportunity.
I mention it only due to Thom mentioning FDR's 4 freedoms, one being 'freedom from want'. In the utilitarian field the topic might be well-being/.
.Language was mentioned a few posts back. Trump speaks at a 4th grade level according to some linguistic commentary. Speaking at a level they can understand is about right. "Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader?" was on TV awhile back. Maybe Rubio and Cruz ought to try some Mister Rogers speak to gain ground among the gop base.