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The word “good” has several different meanings in philosophical thought, but the most common is that which serves as the ultimate end and purpose of human actions. Philosophers often discuss this as either ontological or moral good. The former entails the ultimate end of man and the universe as perfect or supreme perfection, while the latter refers to any action that serves as man’s innate moral virtue.
In the Bible, God is described as the “good” Yahweh. The word is also used in the biblical commandments: “thou shalt not kill”; “love thy neighbour as thyself”; and “turn not aside from the commandment to the right hand or to the left.”
St. Augustine synthesized the Plotinian notion of the good with Christian Revelation. He held that the good of moral action is a synthesis of the natural goods of a person’s soul and the transcendent good, which is God. He also argued that the ontological good is a degree of perfection and that nature has a definite measure and form.
The Thomistic school developed the idea of the good in a sophisticated way. It incorporated not only Aristotle’s concept of the good but also the further insights of pseudo-dionysius and St. Thomas Aquinas. This led to a finer elaboration of the relation between metaphysics and ethics, so that the ontological or intrinsic good is identical with the good of moral action. Kant, however, criticized this notion as subjective and purely relative. He sought a principle of morality that would be universally valid and based on something absolute in the self, such as the good will or good intention.