A very broad term, good denotes anything desirable or worthy of preference. The word is used to express positive evaluation in a wide range of contexts, including economics (goods), morality (good conduct or character), and philosophical and religious topics. The concept of goodness is of particular interest to philosophers and theologians who consider the relationship between the real world and the ideal, or metaphysical world.
In the context of ethics, the term good refers to a virtuous action that is right according to some standard of rightness. This notion is based on the fact that every action has its own disadvantages and advantages, and that a virtuous action is the one which minimizes these disadvantages and maximizes the beneficial effects of an action. This notion of the good is also based on the premise that an action that harms others is not a virtuous act.
Philosophers have a number of different ideas about the concept of good. They sometimes use the term to refer to a transcendental principle that they regard as the supreme end of man and of the universe. They also use the term to refer to an absolute norm that defines what is a virtuous action. Other philosophers, such as the hedonists, have considered the ability of an action to provide pleasure as its only or primary measure of goodness. Other philosophers, such as the utilitarians of the 19th century, have viewed an action as good if it produces benefits for a large number of people.
The term is used in many languages, and its meaning varies widely across these different cultures. For example, the concept of good in Western philosophy is very different from that of ancient Greece. In addition, the concept of good varies between different religions. For example, Christians believe that God is the ultimate source of good, while Muslims do not.
In informal speech, the word good is frequently pronounced with an accent on the first syllable. It is often used as an adverb after forms of the verb to do: He did good on the test. She sees good with her new glasses. However, in formal speech and edited writing the adverb well is used instead of good.
Aristotle’s notion of the good is an essentially practical notion, but many later philosophers have developed it into a metaphysical concept. Plotinus, for example, stressed that the good is not just a moral but also an ontological principle. Thomistic doctrine embodies this idea, as do the views of St. Thomas Aquinas.