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The Variety of ValuesEssays on Morality, Meaning, and Love$
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Susan Wolf

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780195332803

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: December 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195332803.001.0001

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Good-for-Nothings

Good-for-Nothings

Chapter:
(p.67) 5 Good-for-Nothings
Source:
The Variety of Values
Author(s):

Susan Wolf

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195332803.003.0006

Many people think that inanimate objects can only be good if they are good for someone whose existence is itself good. This might explain why the epithet “good-for-nothing” is a term of abuse. But such a view cannot make sense of our experience or of our judgments about the value of art and the value of philosophy. These are not good because they benefit us; rather, they benefit us because they are good. This can explain why writing good philosophy or creating good art can be worthwhile even if it does not increase anyone’s welfare. It also encourages us to take seriously the claims of deep ecologists who say that what is good in nature is not dependent on its interest for us.

Keywords:   value, good-for-nothing, deep ecologists, welfare, philosophy, art

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