Ethical theorists, like theorists of other sorts, have a deep desire for an explanation of their subject-matter which is perfectly simple and comprehensive. They would like to find a single principle to stand at the head and serve as the source of all other principles. Thus the most prominent theories have almost invariably named some one thing as the sole ultimate object of ethical knowledge and pursuit. There are both transcendental and naturalistic theories of this single good, and the accounts are of both highly theoretical and highly practical sorts. ‘The Good’ is conceived by Plato to be something beyond the world of time and sense; while religious philosophers conceive it to be God. More naturalistic accounts are the Stoic doctrine that the good is virtue and the closely similar Self-Realizationist doctrine that it is the realization of the self’s potentialities. The thoroughgoing naturalists are divided between the Hedonistic theory that the sole good is pleasure, and the Interest Theory that it is any object of any interest.
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