What is good? In philosophy, good refers to desirable conduct, which is the opposite of bad. Whether we consider something to be good or bad, the concept of good is of great interest to the students of ethics, morality, philosophy, and religion. Its definition varies substantially, depending on context and philosophical outlook. This article explores the concept of good in various philosophical traditions and contexts. To understand its most basic meaning, we must consider the nature of the term itself.
For Aristotle, good is a general term, denoting something of value and filling desire. Philosophers often refine the idea of good by distinguishing it from the objects or activities themselves. For instance, he distinguishes between the higher and lower ends of good, in which the latter is sought as a means to the ultimate. Ultimately, however, the highest good – the ultimate good – is desired for its own sake.
To understand the distinction between good and evil, we must look at the underlying concepts of good and bad. According to Plato, good is the action that a person should perform, and it can be useful or pleasurable. Good is a virtue of the soul, which is embodied in the knowledge of just and temperate people. Knowledge of the good is the source of all knowledge, including beauty, truth, and justice. In the Republic, the essence of good is the essence of all things.
In Aristotle’s definition, “all things are good to some extent.” St. Thomas also recognizes that moral good and ontological good are not necessarily the same. Ontological good is ordered toward a higher end, and moral good is a reflection of the ultimate act of choice made by man. However, the ultimate good, the Supreme Good, is incomprehensible to the human mind. But it is capable of being perceived intuitively by man.
According to Kant, the ultimate good has power and dignity. The ultimate good is the source of all things and is, therefore, the ultimate goal of all human existence. This ultimate goal is akin to the highest ideal. If the ultimate good is the supreme principle of knowledge, then it must be the ultimate source of human happiness. But how does it relate to the virtues of the soul? Ultimately, Kant’s view of the good is not as simple as a moral definition, but is nonetheless a philosophical statement about human existence.
While St. Augustine rejects the idea that the objective order of the good relates to man’s end, the objective Order of the Good is reintegrated in the Christian Revelation. This objective Supreme Good, previously hinted by Aristotle, is not inaccessible to man’s natural powers. The divine order demands that man love God as The Good and all other beings as means. This view of the Good varies greatly between the Catholic Church and Protestants.