A good is a thing or action that contributes to a person’s overall well-being, whether it be happiness or health. The concept of good is central to ethics and plays a role in moral reasoning. Different philosophical traditions have defined good in slightly different ways, but all agree that it is something that contributes to human flourishing.
According to the Platonists, goodness is whatever is conducive to man’s true and ultimate happiness. This includes everything that makes him a better man, such as his own perfections, and his activities (including all those things which are pleasant or useful for their own sakes). Those actions that prevent moral evils, like injustice or intemperance, are also considered good. The utilitarians, on the other hand, define the good as that which is most beneficial for everyone (though they disagree with Platonists about what counts as beneficial).
For the Aristotelians, a good is anything that makes up an integral part of a person’s character, such as his virtues, and that contributes to his being a man, including those activities that are intrinsically valuable for their own sakes. It is the goal of every man to find the good that suits his character and enables him to become the best man that he can be.
The Stoics, meanwhile, distinguish between a natural and a moral good, with the former being those things that are essentially desirable for their own sakes, while the latter refers to acts that add an intrinsic value to a person’s character or to his ability to perform certain actions. The natural good is thus the goal of all those who seek to live a happy and fulfilled life, while the moral good is that which is required by one’s ethical duties and obligations.
Contemporary thinkers have tended to reject the notion of an absolute, universal good in favor of more subjective concepts. Bergson, for example, argues that the ontological good is action begetting action through the elan vital, while Sartre takes an existentialist view of the good as the free creation of the good by each individual in the context of his or her experience.
Regardless of the philosophical framework within which the conception of good is developed, it is clear that it is a concept central to ethics and that a great deal of thought has been given to its meaning and significance. For this reason, the article on good is an important and influential work in philosophy and is worthy of study by students and scholars alike. The term is often used in other areas, such as business, where the concept of good may apply to a company’s products and services or to the manner in which they are delivered. It is also commonly used in idioms such as: “to make good on a promise,” or, in more colloquial usage, to mean to fulfill a duty or obligation. For example, an employee might say: “I’m doing my duty by helping you with your project.” In the latter sense of the word, it is also sometimes used to describe a company that has been paid its debts or otherwise made good on its promises.