I seem to vaguely remember a term that means something like "for its own sake," so that it might be used in a sentence like this: "I contend that bread is good not only for the taste or the health benefits it brings, but [for its own sake]."* I believe the term comes up in philosophy, so if nothing in common English usage comes to your very bright minds, I suppose I could ask around on the Philosophy Stack Exchange as well.

*Just a quick note: in most of these situations, the words "intrinsically" or "essentially" might suggest themselves, but, if I may draw the distinction, I do not want a word that means "in itself," but "for itself" (and not quite in the Sartrean sense). In other words, I do not want to say only that goodness (or badness, or orangeness, or malleability...) is a necessary property of the thing, but I do want to say that the thing is good (or bad, or orange, or malleable...) without reference to any further end or relation.

EDIT: If it helps, this word would be a good antonym for "pragmatic" or "utilitarian" (in the strict senses of the words), and it would have positive connotations.

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    I'm not with this. How can the self-interest of an inanimate substance like bread be a meaningful concept? Indeed, how can anything be "good" without reference to an external moral value system? Commented Mar 14, 2015 at 16:48
  • @FF Not unless it/He defines goodness. Commented Mar 14, 2015 at 17:15
  • Ipso facto might be made to fit here. Commented Mar 14, 2015 at 17:17
  • Good question, FumbleFingers, but at the moment, I'm not interested in whether the concept is meaningful or correct; that's an issue for philosophers, and for another forum. At the moment, I just want the word. And Wayfaring Stranger, "ipso facto" is a good suggestion, but it's not quite what I had in mind. Commented Mar 14, 2015 at 18:42
  • @Tucker: Well, you say you think the term comes up in philosophy, so maybe it makes more sense to ask about it there. In fact, I might even do that myself, because I do find it intriguing that the concept itself could be "meaningful" (thus far, it isn't to me! :) Commented Mar 14, 2015 at 19:10

5 Answers 5


The word autotelic seems to fit the definition you gave, although I'm not sure it fits the example. MW definition for this word is:

having a purpose in and not apart from itself

  • I haven't heard that term before, but I'll give you an upvote because I quite like it. Commented Apr 18, 2015 at 5:45
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    Csikszentmihalyi says that we experience intrinsic motivation when we are in flow. This use of intrinsic felt weak. So I got to wondering how to say "for its own sake" in a word, and ended up very pleased with autotelic, which, it appears, also can describe the search for a lovely word.
    – krry
    Commented May 18, 2021 at 5:08

Are you thinking of Kant's term "in itself" (German: "an sich")? "Bread is good in itself."

The Latin "per se" can also be used roughly in this sense. However, "Bread per se is good" might be taken to be assenting to the virtues of plain bread, as opposed to bread spread with Marmite.

(That is, to me, "bread per se" is likely considering the bread apart from its physical context, while "bread in itself" is considering it apart from the perceptual or moral effects it has on others.)

  • Kant's term has the sort of meaning I am going for, but the thing I am trying to remember is a single word. As a disclaimer, it could very well be that this is one of those "invented memories" that psychologists sometimes mention and there really is no such word, but I'd like to see first whether anyone knows what I am talking about. Commented Mar 14, 2015 at 18:45

I think you might be looking for outright

Defined by The Free Dictionary as:

  1. Without reservation or qualification; openly: finally responded outright to the question.
  2. Completely and entirely; wholly: denied the charges outright.

So one might say that beets are good for you. But I wouldn't call them good because I don't like the taste of them.

On the other hand you contend in the OP that bread is good outright.

You might also consider downright
Again from The Free Dictionary

adv. 1. completely; thoroughly: downright angry.

Bread is just downright good.

  • That's also a good suggestion, but it is still not quite what I am looking for. "Outright" seems to me to mean something more like "fully" (as in definition two) and not "for its own sake." And, though "downright" does seem to me to have implications that the evaluation of the thing's property relies on nothing outside the thing, it also has that meaning of completeness or totality you mentioned, which is not what I am trying to say. Commented Mar 14, 2015 at 19:29

I've just come across this somewhat old question, and yet I thought I, too, could give it a try. I'm not a native speaker but I think I kind of know of a word that fits your explanation.

Why don't you have a look at "reflexive(ly)"?

Merriam-Webster describes it as follows:

  1. directed or turned back on itself.

  2. of, relating to, characterized by, or being a relation that exists between an entity and itself.


Came here trying to find the same answer to that question. Found it elsewhere so I'll post here.

intrinsic good

  • Welcome to English Stack Exchange Nowick, you answer would be improved if you had a definition of what intrinsic good means, and perhaps a link to a dictionary, to explain the term(s).
    – Gary
    Commented Apr 5, 2017 at 5:21

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