Define and Explain the Good


The good is a concept that permeates all aspects of our lives. It is something that we aspire to, as individuals and societies, because we know that it leads to happiness, prosperity and health. It is often used in moral philosophy, especially as the basis for ethics and a code of conduct. It is difficult, however, to define and explain, because it is so fundamental to our understanding of reality.

In philosophical terms, ‘good’ is a term that encompasses several different ideas. It can be a general term that assigns positive value to something, or it can be a specific idea that is associated with morality and right and wrong behavior.

One of the most important uses of ‘good’ in philosophical discourse is the idea that there are certain things that are intrinsically valuable or worthwhile: a good education, a life of virtue, freedom and dignity, a relationship with one’s family and friends, and so on. These values are called ‘ethical goods’ and they play a key role in the philosophy of morality.

Another important use of the term good is as a concept that relates to the nature of human beings: being ‘good’ means living in ways that are characterized by compassion, kindness and other virtues. This idea of ‘being a good person’ has long been an essential part of many religious traditions and is also the basis for most ethical systems of thought, including secularist morality and utilitarianism.

A third and final way in which ‘good’ is used in philosophical discourse is as a synonym for ‘right’: being ‘good’ means being a person who obeys the law and treats others fairly. This is a major theme in ethical theories of law and government, and it is sometimes contrasted with ‘bad’, which is seen as immoral or criminal.

In everyday speech, ‘good’ is often used as an adjective or adverb: it means that something is pleasant or satisfying, or that someone is healthy and well. It is also used in idioms and colloquialisms: I feel good, she’s a good mother, we had a good time, we’re in a good mood, he’s a good man, it’s a good job, she’s got a good figure, etc. In formal writing or edited work, however, the adverb well is usually used instead of good: He did well on the test, she sees well with her new glasses.

In his essay ‘On Good and Evil’, Bertrand Russell famously asserted that morality is an attempt to distinguish between what is good for us and what is bad for us, and that this distinction can only be made by considering what makes humans distinct from other animals. He also argued that this definition of good requires that we know something of the Form or essence of what is good, an ideal that cannot be derived from the particular qualities or characteristics of things such as humans, lions or houses. Other philosophers have disagreed with this position, most notably philosopher Jeremy Bentham in his essay ‘On Liberty’.