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final good

Subject Philosophy

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405106795.2004.x


E thics, philosophy of action The notion of a final good is fundamental in ancient ethical systems. Every action is pursued for an end or telos , and this end is good for the agent. Some goods are themselves pursued for other higher goods, and hence there is a hierarchy of goods. To proceed in this way, there must be a single good that is sought for its own sake while all other goods are sought for the sake of it. This single good is the final (or best or highest) good, also called the final end. It should be terminal, comprehensive, and self-sufficient, although this final condition is in dispute. In ancient Greek philosophy, each ethical school agreed that this final good is eudaimonia (well-being or happiness), but differed with regard to what happiness is. Different schools respectively took it to be honor, pleasure, virtue, contemplation, or tranquillity. For an individual's life, the final good is the direction of his or her life as a whole, that is, that person's life plan. To answer the fundamental ethical question “How should I live?”, one needs first to deliberate and determine what the final good is for one's life, which will organize the priorities in life and make life a unity. The notion of final good fell into neglect in modern moral theory because the latter emphasizes the impartiality of moral agents rather than their life as a unity. However, it has been revived ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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