The Good (also spelled Good)

The good (also or ) is a concept that has been the subject of extensive philosophical discussion since antiquity. In a broad sense, the good refers to anything that is valued or desirable, and in a narrow sense, it refers to things that are morally right. The good is thus a central concept in ethics, and philosophers have developed a variety of theories about it.

Most of these theories focus on the idea that there is a general concept of the good that humans can share, and that this concept can serve as the basis for basic principles of fairness and right conduct. There is also a wide range of views about how the good should be defined, and a great deal of disagreement over what is good in any given situation.

Many philosophers also divide goods into different categories, such as ends – which are valued for their own sakes – and means, which are valuable because of the ends they promote. Others divide them into intrinsic goods, which have their value in themselves, and extrinsic goods, which get their value from their relation to some other thing. Still others distinguish between subjective or agent-relative goods, which are valuable to people in particular ways, and objective or agent-neutral goods, which are good from everyone’s point of view.

In ordinary language, the word good is often used figuratively, meaning something is pleasing or favorable: A long walk through a crowded city might be good for someone who likes people-watching, but it might not be so good for someone who hates crowds. The word can also be used adjectivally to describe qualities: He did good on the test; She sees well with her new glasses. This use of the word is more common in informal speech, and it is less common in edited writing: In formal or business-related writing, the adverb well is usually used instead.

Some philosophers have tried to develop a theory of the good that would account for all of these various uses. One early attempt was by A. C. Ewing, who argued that the good could be understood as a quality of things that are fitted to be loved. His analysis is now largely obsolete, but it did help to initiate a wider discussion of the nature and value of goodness.

In the Bible, the word good is found in many translations of the Old Testament and the New Testament, including yadabh, “to do thee good” (Genesis 18:12); hesed, “lovingkindness” or “goodwill” (Leviticus 19:8); kosmios, “orderly” or “wholesome” (Romans 16:18), and philagathos, “lovingkindness” or “benevolence” (1 Corinthians 13:7). In the New Testament, it is also translated by eudokia, “good pleasure” (2 Corinthians 1:24); hexaton, “expedient” or “fitting” (Ephesians 1:9); and sumphero, “good will” (“Jeremiah 18:10; Luke 19:10).