The Definition of Good


Good is a term used in English to describe something that is desirable or pleasing. It is often associated with pleasure, but can also refer to the good of a person, place or activity.

There are different ways to define good, and each is based on a set of principles that are considered in order to determine whether or not a given thing is good. These include teleological, utilitarian and consequentialist theories.

Platonic Origins:

Plato sees the good as the action that a man wills and seeks for the sake of something that makes him happy, useful or pleasurable. It may be the result of a natural process or an unnatural one. It can be a reward or a punishment, but it must be conducive to his good.

The wise man, he says, wills the good. This means that he wills that which makes him content and at peace with himself and others. The good consists in the gradual comprehension of what is, which is reached by intuition, a conscious affirmation of the mind. This intuition is a sort of love, a spontaneous affirmation of what is.

Intonation of Being:

Some modern philosophers, particularly Kant, criticize metaphysical knowledge of being; they hold that we know only appearances, which are syntheses of the effects or illusory qualities of things. This is in contrast to the objective ordering of the ontological good, which is potential to man’s creative act of choice.


The most radical expression of this trend is seen in the work of Sartre (see existentialism). For him being simply is, without meaning; it is neither consciousness nor object.

In the eighteenth century, the British philosophers Adam Smith and David Hume held that the moral good is based on a spiritual synthesis made by a unique person. This synthesis is shaped by love for the good and is perfectible in various degrees through the virtues of the soul. The conscientious judgment, which depends on complicated judgments inspired by love of the good and accompanied by respect for the particular person, is the good; it must be distinguished from the ontological good.