What Is Good?


In English good means pleasing, favorable, or nice. It also refers to the state of being healthy, well, or fit. It is a general term of positive evaluation in a wide range of contexts and plays an important role in ethics, morality, and philosophy. In contrast, bad and evil are opposites of good.

Despite its generality, good is also a very subjective concept. In one sense it is relative – that which is good for the individual may be bad for someone else. For example, it is good to return a wallet if you find it, but not so good to steal the money from your neighbor.

Philosophers have divided good into ends, which are valued for their own sakes, and means, which are valuable because they promote the achievement of ends. Some philosophers also distinguish between intrinsic and extrinsic goods. Intrinsic good are values that are innately valuable: honesty is a good virtue, for example. Extrinsic good are things that are valuable because of the way in which they benefit or enhance something else: a long walk through a crowd of people is a good thing for someone who enjoys people-watching, but it would not be so good for someone who dislikes people.

A person is considered to be a good person when they have the proper traits for their task or vocation: wisdom, justice, courage, and temperance are all good virtues. Most ancient philosophers tended to accept this conception of goodness, though Aristotle proposed a more sophisticated and original theory of the virtues.

Many synonyms for good are used in different languages to indicate the same meaning, and a few are even more specific. In Spanish, bueno is the usual translation for good. It is used in informal speech after forms of the verb do: He did a good job on the test. She sees well with her new glasses. This usage is not common in formal or edited writing, where the adverb well is preferred.

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