Brandt's Definition of "Good"

J. David Velleman
1988 Philosophical Review  
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more » ... ion of "Good"' J. David Velleman R ichard Brandt has argued that the word "good" should be defined as meaning that a thing is rational to desire, in the sense that one would desire it after a process of "value-free ref lection" that Brandt calls "cognitive psychotherapy."2 In cognitive psychotherapy, as prescribed by Brandt, the patient draws on "the propositions accepted by the science of [his] day, plus factual propositions justified by publicly accessible evidence . . . and the principles of logic" (p. 13); and he represents to himself, repeatedly and vividly, every item of such information that stands to exert a specific effect on his desires-that is, an effect impinging only on particular desires and attributable to the content of the information represented (p. 112).3 The desires that one would have after such treatment are the ones that are rational for one to have, according to Brandt, and "good" should be defined as meaning "rational to desire" in this sense. Brandt's definition of "good" has a venerable history and, it appears, a promising future. It is closely akin to definitions offered by Henry Sidgwick4 and Johns Rawls.5 Its account of rational de-
doi:10.2307/2185446 fatcat:3gyrvui7wzhllirkpui6soblce