Margot Must

"The Guise of the Good: A Philosophical History" by Francesco Orsi was published in April 2023

Did you ever do, or want, something you thought there was absolutely and literally nothing good about, not even in terms of self-interest? Most philosophers in history would say no, you didn't. This thesis, nowadays known as the guise of the good (you can only want, or do, something if something about it seems good to you), has crossed the entire arc of Western philosophy. 

This is the first book to reconstruct this history in a systematic and comprehensive way. While the guise of the good has its beginnings in Socrates' idea that nobody willingly acts badly, it was then developed by Aristotle (the object of desire is the good, or apparent good) and further elaborated, in the Christian philosophical context, by Thomas Aquinas and, later, Francisco Suarez. Descartes, Locke, Leibniz, Hume and Kant (who calls it "the old formula of the Schools") all seem to pay their respects to the thesis, in their own ways, until more explicit recent reappraisals like Franz Brentano's and Elizabeth Anscombe's, who securely brought the guise of the good back into the philosophical debate. At the same time, turbulent episodes in this success story are not ignored, from the theological concerns of William of Ockham, to the modern doubts of Hobbes and Spinoza, to Hegel's ambiguities and the decided repudiation by Nietzsche.

Francesco Orsi says: "The main merit of the book, as I see it, is that it provides a unified, coherent narration of a staple idea in Western philosophy. Most of my work was done standing on the shoulders of giants, that is, not only analyzing the original texts but also taking advantage of the abundant excellent scholarship on these classics while connecting all this to the most recent debates. Even if the focus is on well-known figures of Western philosophy, my hope is that the book will inspire similar work on less well-known philosophers and on other traditions of thought. I would say the book will be of interest to readers with minimal knowledge of the history of philosophy, as well as readers with an interest in questions like what is the nature of desire, what makes us agents, and so on."

Find out more about the book and its content at the Routledge website.
You can also listen Francesco Orsi talking about his book at "New York in Philosophy. A Multimedia Newsletter". June 14, 2023, posted by  M. Arvan.

Francesco Orsi's first monograph, "Value Theory", was published in 2015 by Bloomsbury.

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