• Shawn
    12.7k
    I don't have much to say about good, because philosophers seem to be so caught up with no clear way of defining it. Hence, I am led to believe that what a person or in even more complex cases, a group of people, define as good can only be gleaned from experience.

    Do you agree with this, namely that the notion of good in inherent in the primacy of experience, and not something that can be learned by simply looking up a definition and analyzing it?
  • Banno
    23.5k
    Do you agree with this, namely that the notion of good in inherent in the primacy of experience, and not something that can be learned by simply looking up a definition and analyzing it?Shawn

    How could one decide if a proffered definition were correct, apart from comparing it to experience?

    Yes, the meaning of "good" is shown, not said; found in use, not in analysis.
  • AmadeusD
    1.9k
    Do you agree with this, namely that the notion of good in inherent in the primacy of experienceShawn

    No, but I think you're in the right ballpark. I think the notion of good is something inherently informed by experience, but its not something that arises from 'experience' already-formed. Notions are human, and they develop over the course of experience/s.
  • Shawn
    12.7k
    Yes, the meaning of "good" is shown, not said; found in use, not in analysis.Banno

    Yet, take the example of good being defined, not by an individual; but, by the very values people or groups enshrine into laws. How do values get inoculated into an individual?
  • Outlander
    1.9k
    "It's all relative." - Albert Einstein

    Good can mean beneficial as in bringing one (typically the speaker) benefit, good can mean morally satisfying, pleasing, or acceptable. Often both, but not always. I take it to mean "Pleasing" as in "this pleases me", which seems to fit basically every moment or use of the word "good". Which as you can imagine carries no grounds in morality but personal sentiment alone.

    Police: "Your husband just died".
    Person A: "Oh no! How will I ever go on?!"

    Police: ":Your husband just died"
    Person B: "Yay, I'm rich! I mean, oh no."

    I take it this thread is meant to be explicitly about morality. In which case varies wholly on the underlying facts of the situation, facts which are never guaranteed to be known in full by those who assert otherwise, even with their life.

    So, absent of religion, one might circle back and cast what is "beneficial" to the speaker, as a strictly cellular being as "good". Say, if I eat food and do not starve, that's good. However, if I get cancer and face certain death, that's bad. Anything beyond that is pure speculation and personal preference, in the aforementioned context, at least.
  • Barkon
    112
    Good can be beneficent or maleficent, you can either benefit or hinder yourself using the environment, and you can do the same to others.

    Good is a term referring to the 'as is' or 'it is what it is' factor.

    It depends on how you treat 'what is' or 'the good(s)'.
  • Scarecow
    15
    First, you see the evil in the world.
    Then, you see the evil in others.
    Eventually, you see the evil within yourself.
  • Banno
    23.5k
    Yet, take the example of good being defined, not by an individual; but, by the very values people or groups enshrine into laws.Shawn
    Ok. That's right, in so far as what is enshrined in law is what we enact. But of course there is no equivalence between the law and the good. There are bad laws.

    My question was, "How could one decide if a proffered definition were correct, apart from comparing it to experience?" Along with Moore, I doubt that it is possible to give a satisfactory analysis of "the good"; and along with Wittgenstein I take it that one recognises it when one sees it.

    But as well, we are talking here about our interactions with others. Ethics begins as one takes other folk into account.
  • Shawn
    12.7k
    But of course there is no equivalence between the law and the goodBanno

    But, specifically, what about natural laws? Maybe they can be derived from some ethical consideration of the good...
  • Fire Ologist
    234
    This is all meant as a reply to the OP. The quotes are my sources and citations. Because they lay out enough moving parts to make the point.

    what a person or in even more complex cases, a group of people, define as good can only be gleaned from experience.Shawn

    I agree.

    philosophers seem to be so caught up with no clear way of defining it.Shawn

    I wholeheartedly agree. And there are whole theories of ethics and morality that ignore the good that is ever-present in the word “ethical” or “moral”, the good lurking in every moral, ethical statement. Ridiculous.

    the notion of good is something inherently informed by experience, but its not something that arises from 'experience' already-formed. Notions are human, and they developAmadeusD

    Plato found the good was an object, already formed, out there to be experienced, regardless of the human who forms the notion of good in the first place. I think Plato was pointing to what is formed once the good is developed in the human (so he was wrong to point to an eternal form). To glean the good from experience we have to grapple with the fact Amadeus raises that only our own minds can make the good, and by gleaning we are constructing the contents of our minds. That just means the good never forms without us. But I disagree if the quote from Amadeus means the good never forms. There is an object, a definition, that forms, from our experience, called “good.”

    "It's all relative."Outlander

    This is the kind of statement that ignores the definition of good (from philosophers having no clear way to define it) and leaps to a scale with good, worse and better. The relative. So now, with no understanding of good, we say “good, worse better.” Then we get so enamored with our ability to move the scale, and take the same act, like killing, and mark it as good on one scale, worse by some other measure, and maybe even best measuring again. From all this mess we conclude good is relative. But it is we, the ones constructing the scale who make relativity. But further, we must first fix the good for the scale of relative goods to function at all. We still need to glean a definition of good if we are to leap into judgments of better and worse.

    There are distinctions. Gleaned from experience. Constructed into knowable forms. One of these distinctions is between good and not good.

    We need the good to be a fixed definition. I am sure every single one of us says “good” everyday. Every single day we make this distinction. So there is something we have gleaned, something we have constructed that we call “good” - something we should be able to define.

    One person kills another person and a third says “good”. The other person was killing and attacking your family and you stopped them from killing all the rest and the third person was your mother who said “good”.
    Then one person says “We must sacrifice our eldest to the gods in order to avoid the hurricane,” and they kill their own son and say “good.”

    In all of these examples the notion of “good” remains fixed. It is used in the same way. If we look to compare killing the first person with killing the son we have to look to the same fixed definition of “good” to come up with our own opinions of the killings. The good, like Plato mistook for eternal without us, is more like something eternal (something we all say every single day) with us.

    It is difficult to define the good because it is:
    inherent in the primacy of experienceShawn

    It’s like trying to define a letter of the alphabet. We have to use letters to make words to make definitions…but by then we’ve gone so far past the single letter of the alphabet that it is easy to forget what we were meaning to define.

    But nevertheless, like letters, we fix good in our lives everyday.

    We can’t avoid the good we’ve constructed.

    If you agree, well then we are good. If you disagree you think my opinions are not good. Right? So you must agree, good hides or screams in every sentence.

    We go to the store to buy milk and can’t find it and the storekeeper says “what are you looking for” and you say “I see it now, I’m good” and the storekeeper knows everything he needs to know.

    Or someone falls off a street corner and is about to get hit by a car and someone grabs them to the sidewalk and some else says “man, that was good - like a superhero..”

    Or someone is leveling a table and gets the first side good, then the length leveled up, and their boss says, “is the table good?” And she says “all good.”

    From all of these experiences a distinct good can be gleaned.

    It’s a universally good word to know, because it is a universal feature of experience, like alphabets and characters are universally present in language and logic. Part of the mix that makes it a distinct mix.

    This reply isn’t good enough. Doesn’t give you a good definition of good. It truly is difficult to say what good simply means, what it is now that we have constructed it. But there it is everyday.

    And maybe the good is so basic, we don’t really need to define it. It isn’t necessary to define the alphabet before I make this post.

    Maybe it would be better, if I took advice from the following:

    I don't have much to say about goodShawn

    In the end, I think the good we make, that we remake in so many ways, is now distinct and will continue to make sense in every agreement, in every finished piece of work, in every night you lay down a fall asleep (did you sleep good?).

    Some might even say this post would have been good if he stopped about halfway up there, but at least it’s good that it’s over now.
  • Wayfarer
    21k
    Do you agree with this, namely that the notion of good in inherent in the primacy of experience, and not something that can be learned by simply looking up a definition and analyzing it?Shawn

    I had rather thought that discerning the good was the role traditionally assigned to conscience, and that those who do not do good have a deficiency in that respect. And also that while this is something that might be shaped by experience, it is still essentially innate, rather than acquired - in that, someone who lacks all conscience, such as a sociopath, is not going to acquire one through experience.
  • Fire Ologist
    234


    Couldn’t you say that the innate in conscience is where the good is gleaned, where the good is constructed? This still doesn’t say what the good is. So you may be agreeing that the good is gleaned from experience, just adding that it is the conscience that does the gleaning with its innate judgments of what is good.
  • Wayfarer
    21k
    Couldn’t you say that the innate in conscience is where the good is gleaned, where the good is constructed?Fire Ologist

    I can see some sense in which it's a 'construct' but I also believe there is an innate good, although not everyone will agree.
  • Fire Ologist
    234
    I can see some sense in which it's a 'construct' but I also believe there is an innate good, although not everyone will agree.Wayfarer

    I see it as constructed, but objective or innate in that we can agree that what we each construct sometimes agrees. Agreement has good inherent in it, for example.
  • 180 Proof
    14.3k
    Do you agree with this, namely that the notion of good in inherent in the primacy of experience, and not something that can be learned by simply looking up a definition and analyzing it?Shawn
    Yes I agree insofar as. I've come to experientially understand (any) "good" as a reflective practice of negatingeffectively preventing/reducing – disvalue.
  • AmadeusD
    1.9k
    That just means the good never forms without us. But I disagree if the quote from Amadeus means the good never forms. There is an object, a definition, that forms, from our experience, called “good.”Fire Ologist

    In some sense, I agree, but hte idea that its an 'object' to be passed about is, to me, incoherent even on views other than my own. Other than PLatonic Forms things like Love, Good, Apprehension - these are not 'things' they are properties of people or acts. I do not think properties can be considered objects. That said, I lean toward some form a property dualism so maybe i'll have to eat crow on this soon enough
  • Alkis Piskas
    2.1k

    Good topic. :up:

    the notion of good in inherent in the primacy of experienceShawn
    "Inherent" and "experience" are incompatible concepts. "Inherent" is something we have by nature, we are born with. "Experience" is something we acquire in life.
    I believe that "good", in the sense of beneficial --the most common meaning and use of the word-- is mainly inherent in a human being --even in animals-- but it is also "shaped" by experience.

    something that can be learned by simply looking up a definition and analyzing it?Shawn
    Looking up "good" in a dictionary, you need a whole day to check all definitions. You might be lucky and find one or more of them related explicitly to philosophy. But, it would be better to look up the word in a philosophical dictionary to start with. But even then, you can be confronted with a lot of different descriptions/definitions of the word "good", according to different philosophers, philosophical systems, etc.

    Now, talking about good, beneficial, ethical, moral, etc. is far from being a simple thing. Because there a different aspects from which one can talk about it. If you are talking from an absolute, objective viewpoint, then you will have to analyze the concept as Socrates did about 2,500 years ago (re: αγαθόν. agathon.) If, on the other hand, you are talking from a relative viewpoint, then you are faced with problems like what is good for me might not be good for you.

    So, except if you are intending to write a paper on the subject, I believe that the best thing to do is to consider the most common meaning and/or use of the word "good". And most probably, you will end up with the concept of "beneficial" that I have already brought up at start. :smile:
  • Banno
    23.5k
    But, specifically, what about natural laws? Maybe they can be derived from some ethical consideration of the good...Shawn
    There's a logical gap between the ought of ethics and the is of natural laws.
  • Shawn
    12.7k
    I had rather thought that discerning the good was the role traditionally assigned to conscience, and that those who do not do good have a deficiency in that respect. And also that while this is something that might be shaped by experience, it is still essentially innate, rather than acquired - in that, someone who lacks all conscience, such as a sociopath, is not going to acquire one through experience.Wayfarer

    Yes, well if you really drill this down to the very DNA or evolutionary psychology and group behaviors, then what more can be said? Then again, much more can be said...
  • Wayfarer
    21k
    Yes, well if you really drill this down to the very DNA or evolutionary psychology….Shawn

    …you will run into Hume’s is/ought problem.
  • Shawn
    12.7k


    Not sure, I think that throughout history or if one wants to process historicism, that homo sapiens sapiens has been able to construct certain laws that promote these inherent feelings (such as Hume's hurray and boo value judgements) into practice.
  • Wayfarer
    21k
    I was responding to your appeal to 'DNA and evolutionary psychology'. Here, you're appealing to science to account for the faculty of conscience. But it may not throw much light. Science is concerned with what can be measured, with quantitative evaluation (what is) whereas ethical judgement by its very nature concerns 'oughts'. it is not at all coincidental that Hume, one of the founding figures of the Scottish Enlightenment, recognised this dilemma.

    This is from an OP by a philosopher about the shortcomings of such an approach.

    I have no beef with entomology or evolution, but I refuse to admit that they teach me much about ethics. Consider the fact that human action ranges to the extremes. People can perform extraordinary acts of altruism, including kindness toward other species — or they can utterly fail to be altruistic, even toward their own children. So whatever tendencies we may have inherited leave ample room for variation; our choices will determine which end of the spectrum we approach. This is where ethical discourse comes in — not in explaining how we’re “built,” but in deliberating on our own future acts. Should I cheat on this test? Should I give this stranger a ride? Knowing how my selfish and altruistic feelings evolved doesn’t help me decide at all. Most, though not all, moral codes advise me to cultivate altruism. But since the human race has evolved to be capable of a wide range of both selfish and altruistic behavior, there is no reason to say that altruism is superior to selfishness in any biological sense.Anything but Human, Richard Polt
  • Barkon
    112
    No. You don't learn good and evil through experience, you already know good and evil since birth(and maybe prior).

    Good and evil are more elements of discourse.

    You learn morality and effects of specific actions, and of the elements themselves, but they are a priori to life.

    I.e. a baby progresses in its learning experience, it tries to understand itself, to reach a state where it can survive.
  • Shawn
    12.7k


    Yes, well how else are we to decide about who we are without knowledge of our ancestors and how we evolved from then until now?
  • Wayfarer
    21k
    It’s also a version of the naturalistic fallacy.
  • Joshs
    5.3k

    ↪Shawn It’s also a version of the naturalistic fallacy.Wayfarer

    I think the fallacy is in thinking we can separate out the natural from the moral, the ‘is’ from the ‘ought’. Richard Polt, a supposed Heidegger expert, should know bettter, since it was precisely Heidegger’s point that a science presupposes as its very condition of possibility a set of metaphysical assumptions about how the world ought to be understood, which implies an ethics. Furthermore , Heidegger would argue that Polt’s own formulation of ethics falls into what Heidegger calls machination, the technological thinking of enframing. Do humans prefer altruism over selfishness? Is one ethically better than the other? Or is this choice between Hobbes’ selfish beast and Rosseau’s altruistic innocent caught up in the same subjectivist humanism that spawned modern empirical naturalism?
  • Wayfarer
    21k
    Do humans prefer altruism over selfishness? Is one ethically better than the other?Joshs

    Indeed. I think Richard Polt's point is perfectly clear, which is why I often refer to it, although Heidegger's obscurantism can be used to muddy any waters one chooses.

    The point about appealing to evolutionary biology in support of an ethic is exactly an instance of the naturalistic fallacy. This fallacy, identified by philosopher G. E. Moore in his work Principia Ethica, occurs when one tries to define what is "good" in terms of natural properties or states of affairs, such as what is "natural" or what has evolved biologically. For example, just because a behavior like altruism has evolved in certain species as beneficial for survival does not necessarily mean such behavior can be considered morally good. Ethical norms typically involve evaluative judgments that cannot be directly derived from facts about the natural world.
  • AmadeusD
    1.9k
    This seems self-evidently wrong.

    Plum claiming we know good and evil from birth is both counter to the evidence, and is somewhat incoherent in it's own terms. What established those 'facts' as they must be on your account?

    Unfortunately,the only answers that don't rely on pure, individuated intuition is either functional (not ethical) or it doesn't exist. I take the latter view, but am open to the former. Collective agreement, or co-operative functionality isn't an ethical fact (either case). Morals are developed as a result of the internal comfort or discomfort of S in the face of a moral consideration. This covers it. On this formulation, morals and ethics need no further explanation. Merely, discussion and accepting social groups as morally-aligned rather than 'right' or 'wrong'. Its bizarre that people feel the need to establish an objective moral where there isn't even a chess move open to start that discussion on the facts. It's also irrelevant. Just live among people with whom you generally agree morally. That seems to be, if we set aside what would be considered at the very least, morally unhelpful violence in order to assert one's moral view on others, what history has amount to, socially speaking. I note here, though, that religion as an absolute poison of the mind, has convinced many people that a shitty book can establish the right to carry about hte above. Think what we may, but empirically, using fictional accounts to hoodwink children seems again, at the least, morally unhelpful on any account.

    That said, you may find this interesting: It's a book by a prof. of Moral philosophy at St Andrew's - but also, the head of the Phil department I'm in here in NZ.

    He argues that teh way to support a purpose of the Universe is through, essentially, theistic reasoning to objective morals - and then just jettisoning the Theism as unnecessary. It would get some way to your position, but it certainly makes clear that human morals are essentially irrelevant to even a successful argument for the account.

    Heidegger’s point that a science presupposes as its very condition of possibility a set of metaphysical assumptions about how the world ought to be understood.Joshs

    Unsurprisingly, another horrible point from Heidegger that doesn't capture anything about hte scientific enterprise.
  • Joshs
    5.3k


    The point about appealing to evolutionary biology in support of an ethic is exactly an instance of the naturalistic fallacy.. Ethical norms typically involve evaluative judgments that cannot be directly derived from facts about the natural worldWayfarer

    The problem isn’t with naturalism per se, but with a reductionistic, objectivist form of naturalism. Even an externalist like Dennett recognized that a freedom is built into biological processes that makes moral deliberation something that cannot be subsumed under any pre-determined scheme. As Dennett argued in his book, Freedom Evolves, the reason ethical norms cannot be directly derived from facts about the natural world is that those facts themselves evolve. What one can take from evolutionary theory and apply to ethics is the notion of the radical contingency of normative schemes of action.
  • Joshs
    5.3k


    Heidegger’s point that a science presupposes as its very condition of possibility a set of metaphysical assumptions about how the world ought to be understood.
    — Joshs

    Unsurprisingly, another horrible point from Heidegger that doesn't capture anything about hte scientific enterprise
    AmadeusD

    It’s pretty much the same point that Thomas Kuhn makes about science.
  • Lionino
    1.8k
    Heidegger’s point that a science presupposes as its very condition of possibility a set of metaphysical assumptions about how the world ought to be understood, which implies an ethicsJoshs

    Is that really Heidegger's point? Because that seems to apply to much more than just science.
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