What Is a Good Thing?


A good thing is one that is desirable, advantageous, beneficial, or valuable. A good thing can also be an event, place, or person. For example, rain water is good for the skin and a long walk through a crowded city is good for people who like to people watch. It can also mean a certain kind of food is good, such as a healthy salad or a well-prepared meal.

Good can also be a virtue, such as honesty or integrity. The Bible contains many references to doing good and being a good person. A good person is someone who treats others with respect and kindness and avoids harming them. The word good is also often used in the expressions “good luck” and “all the best”.

The idea that there is a good way to live life is central to ethical theories of right and wrong. These theories try to make sense of what makes something morally right or wrong by giving reasons why doing a thing is good and why doing it is bad. Some of these theories, such as utilitarianism, hold that the only things that are good are those that benefit most people. Others, such as libertarianism, take a more general view of what is good and base their arguments on the idea that everyone has a private conception of the good that they pursue in their lives.

This notion of the good is complicated by the fact that the word can be used attributively or predicatively. Attributive good refers to a kind of thing, such as a good man, a good book, or a good restaurant. Predicative good refers to a state of being, such as a good mood or a good time. Some philosophers, including G. E. Moore, have argued that predicative use of the word good is mistaken because it confuses the notion of good with a naturalistic attempt to spell out the essence of goodness, which is unknowable.

Kraut argues that attributive good is more legitimate than predicative because practical reasoning almost always rests on claims about what is good for some person or other. However, he also points out that the claim that something is good for someone must be justified in terms of what actually is true about that person and his or her situation. For this reason, the distinction between attributive and predicative good does not resolve the debate about the status of teleological theories.