What Is Good?


The word good means something of value, a thing that fulfils a desire and affords satisfaction. It is a term of interest in metaphysics, morality and philosophy as well as in a wide range of religious contexts. The specific meaning and etymology vary considerably among languages, but the notion of what is good is fundamental to human thought.

In a broader sense, philosophers have identified a number of different categories of goods. For example, they often speak of God as Absolute Perfection, a Supreme Good (see God). In metaphysical analysis they sometimes consider a being to be good or bad depending on whether it is in accordance with or opposed to the nature of being (see naturalness and goodness). In ethics they sometimes talk of any action as a good or a bad one in terms of its adherence or opposition to a norm of morality (see goodness).

A person can be described as being good at many things; however, there are a few characteristics that distinguish people who are genuinely good from those who are not. For example, people who are genuinely good listen to others and do not try to one-up them. They also make a point of being honest and keeping their promises.

They are able to find the right balance in their lives and do not let their ego get in the way of doing what is right for their family and friends. In addition, they are able to forgive others when they have been wronged. These people are able to take the good out of difficult situations and find ways to overcome them.

For Aristotle, the good is a certain synthesis of all virtues, but one elaborated through the intellect. He contrasts it with the natural or brute good, which is what he believes to be the object of man’s actions and his end. He also notes that man cannot use being for his development by a mechanical relating to it; rather, he must employ a limited act of creative self-relation.

Kant criticized the idea of a metaphysical good of being, saying that our knowledge of what is possible and necessary as objects of the understanding and will can only be syntheses of appearances. He did, however, argue that some objects are good or bad according to their suitability for man’s moral purposes.

Other scholars have considered various modalities of the concept of the good, including utilitarianism. Utilitarianism is a theory of justice that argues that a good is whatever brings most happiness to the greatest number of people. This is contrasted with deontological theories, such as those of Immanuel Kant, which assert that a good is an objective standard of conduct based on reason and consideration for other persons. Alternatively, some philosophers have explored hedonistic and existential interpretations of the good. The Epicureans see it as relative bodily pleasure and the Stoics identify it with a passionless life lived rationally.