• tim wood
    3.2k
    What I've got from reading is that a long time ago the good man was he who brought home the bacon, the one who won, and so forth. That is, the good man was the man who did successfully. Failure meant that the man was not a good man - the candidate failures being pretty serious matters.

    Implied is that the man must already have been in a position to be a good man, like a king. A slave would not be in that position, and consequently could not be a good man. Aristotle documents a change in this view - not to say the change was contemporaneous with him; indeed Socrates was much concerned with the good, and that concern did not originate even with him. In his Rhetoric, Aristotle lays out at length a position against sophistry, the speech of the "bad" man. The good man displays in his speech for his auditors arete, eunoia, phronesis - good character, good will, good judgment. Implied is that the man lacking in these cannot make good speech, cannot be a good man.

    That is, the good man became at some point the man who had certain qualities.

    And that becomes the question of this thread. What is the good man? Are there any characteristics that the good man invariably has - or is it conditional/situational?

    If a person wanted to be a good person (by now women included), what should be the case? What should be the process? Is goodness recessive or dominant? Passive or active? To be good must one do good? Or, as in Milton's poem, can "they also serve" - be good - "who only stand and wait."?

    And, is goodness sui generis, its own thing? Or is it a species of niceness or something else?

    Ordinarily, I'm a definitions Nazi - can't make sense without 'em. But obviously when the question is, "What is...", initial definitions must be suspect. And so we don't start with any. "Good," to start with, is left undefined.
  • Pfhorrest
    159
    Short version of my answer:

    A good person is a person who does good deeds.
    Good deeds are those that are good-preserving: that, given good initial circumstances, produce only good consequent circumstances.
    Good circumstances are ones wherein all appetites are fulfilled.

    Long version of my answer here and the following three or four pages.

    So no, if a person is in circumstances where he cannot bring about other circumstances, that does not disqualify him from being a good person, so long as the things that he does do don't make things worse, and hopefully make things better. (Where for 'better' and 'worse' see "appetites" and the link above).
  • Congau
    28
    Something is good whenever it performs its function well, when it does well compared to what might reasonably be expected of it. I find my computer good because it can do what I need it to do. It can’t hammer nails well, but that’s not a part of its functions, so it doesn’t make it any worse.

    A good plumber is good at fixing the pipes. A good bus driver drives the bus safely and punctually. The word “good” has a definite meaning in each case.

    So when asked what a good person is, we have to consider the function of a human being as such; something that would make any person good regardless of his chosen profession.

    Now the task we all have in common as human beings is our dealing with our fellow creatures. We can do that well or badly depending on our disposition to make other people satisfied and contribute to their happiness. But just as the best plumber is not necessarily the one who fixes the most pipes, but the one who has the ability to do it, a good person is not necessarily the one who brings the most happiness. (A political leader is in a better position to do good or bad, but that doesn’t make him good or bad.) A good person is the one who is disposed to make other people happier whether or not he has the chance to do so. That is what the ancient Greeks called virtue.
  • Mww
    1k
    "Good," to start with, is left undefined.tim wood

    As it should be, methinks, it being a transcendental conception, meaning it has no object belonging to it necessarily. Others similar being, i.e., possibility, existence, etc. Things are possible, things exist, things are good, but “good” cannot be cognized as a thing.

    It follows that a man qualified by nothing but good in itself, and this good being undefined, is sufficient reason to suppose that to which it is assigned also be left undefined, hence the idea of a good man is unintelligible and the reality of a good man is self-contradictory. Rather, there is a man of good nature, or, a man that does good things, which experience can readily verify.

    Or not......
  • tim wood
    3.2k
    Or not.....Mww
    You will (had better!) recognize this:

    "There is nothing it is possible to think of anywhere in the world, or indeed anything at all outside it, that can be held to be good without limitation, excepting only a good will."*

    And we know where this author goes with this. With this in hand, do you identify the good man as the man with a good will? Or not....

    *Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals, Kant.
  • tim wood
    3.2k
    A good person is a person who does good deeds.Pfhorrest
    Based on results, apparently - yes? That makes you an anti-deontologist and a utilitarian, yes?

    In a sense, though, your good man is the man who does the good thing - brings home the bacon, wins the war.
    A good person is a person who does good deeds.Pfhorrest

    Is it your argument that neither duty nor intention by themselves make the good man? But that he (or she) be measured by results?
  • tim wood
    3.2k
    A good person is the one who is disposed to make other people happier whether or not he has the chance to do so.Congau
    Given the chance, does goodness require he do?
  • Pfhorrest
    159
    You're missing the important middle step of my three-step position, which is explicitly a synthesis of deontology and utilitarianism. I am anti-consequentialist in the same way that I am anti-confirmationist, which is to say that results do matter, but only in that they can show your process to be wrong, and the process is the important part. Bringing about good ends doesn't justify all means -- something with good consequences can still be the wrong thing to do -- but bringing about bad ends disqualifies any means. With the important point that it's the introduction of new bad ends that does the disqualification; merely failing to fix existing bad circumstances isn't a sign of bad deeds.

    Exactly like how a valid argument will produce only true conclusions if you feed in only true premises, so if you get a false conclusion you know that either the argument is invalid or that the premises contained falsehoods. But getting a true conclusion tells you nothing; invalid arguments from false premises can still produce true conclusions.

    So someone who does no harm is a good person. Someone who undoes preexisting harms is an even better person, but failing to do so is not bad. It's the difference between permissible and supererogatory.
  • tim wood
    3.2k
    I'm glad you claimed synthesis, for that immediately rules out, jumps out of, the direct opposition of thesis/antithesis. But have you made the jump?

    Deontology is all about duty for duty's sake, but, it must be admitted, for moral worth, not precisely for the good itself. That is, one can accomplish good ends all day long, without having done anything of moral worth, and have acted in accordance with duty, even with bad result. This last, it seems, you leave out of your synthesis.
    ... bringing about bad ends disqualifies any means.Pfhorrest
    Which seems a return to, "A good person is a person who does good deeds."

    But at the same time, we're not completely concerned with process or the accomplishment of good ends. Rather instead it is that which makes the good man, or woman, good - if there is such a thing. Implicitly, then, I'd argue as consequence that the bad man cannot be, by definition, a good man. You might argue he could still accomplish a good end; but I would counter that the bad man in respect of his badness cannot do the good thing, except by accident. And to be sure, very few persons are all bad.

    We seem to be out of step as to where the goodness resides. You, it seems, in process and results, those perhaps "proving" the good. I, on the other hand, thinking the goodness in the person primordially with respect to prospective action; that is, the good informs the action, not is accidental or incidental or consequential to it.
  • Mww
    1k
    Or not....tim wood

    HA!!! Good one.

    The will is the ideal good, yes. Good without expectation of return.

    There is an argument, or maybe just an interpretation, that if morality presupposes a will, and all wills are good, then every man who is a moral agent possesses a good will. If true, the good mark of a man can’t be that which is presupposed in him.

    That being said, I’m more inclined to identify the good of a man by his respect for law, the prime facilitator of duty. Respect for law is not a presupposition, but a necessary condition for what follows from it. None of which will meet the criteria of a rabid consequentialist, nor the virtue ethicist.
  • Pfhorrest
    159
    I think my position is more clearly stated by expounding the analogy with epistemology in a way that asks us what makes a person epistemically virtuous, as in, what makes them a good thinker, a wise person, skilled at correctly forming their beliefs. I think that situation is much less controversial, and my position is that moral virtue is exactly analogous to it.

    An epistemically virtuous person is not just someone who believes things that are true. Rather, they are someone who believes things because they are true, meaning that they employ a belief-formation process that is responsive to truth, such that not only do they believe something, and it happens to be true, but if it had been false they would not have ended up believing it. So someone is epistemically virtuous if they follow correct epistemic procedures, basically if they employ sound theoretical reasoning, in such a way that, most importantly, they only reach true conclusions to their inferences given true premises (their inferences are truth-preserving), and secondarily, better still but not necessarily, they tend to eliminate false premises and so narrow in gradually on the complete truth.

    Likewise, a morally virtuous person is not just someone who causes states of affairs that are good (where this is defined hedonically, but with some technical caveats I won't go into to make it more analogous to empirical truth). Rather, they are someone who does things because they are good, meaning that they employ a decision-making process that is responsive to goodness, such that not only do they do something, and it happens to have good consequences, but if it had bad consequences they would not have ended up doing it. So someone is morally virtuous if they follow correct deontic procedures, basically if they employ sound moral reasoning, in such a way that, most importantly, they only bring about good consequences by their actions given good prior circumstances (their actions are good-preserving), and secondarily, better still but not necessarily, they tend to eliminate bad prior circumstances and so narrow in gradually on complete goodness.

    FWIW, I consider moral virtue like this definitionally identical to freedom of will. Your will is what you think is the best course of action, which is identical to moral reasoning (even if your moral reasoning fails to consider anyone's feelings but your own; you're just bad at moral reasoning then, but a solipsist is equally bad at theoretical reasoning and for the same reasons), and your will is free when such judgements about what is the best course of action are causally effective on what actions you actually take (in contrast to cases where something else besides your best judgement ends up the cause of your actions).
  • NOS4A2
    1.1k
    A good man is a just man. Do justice though the heavens fall.
  • Possibility
    599
    In a nutshell, a ‘good person’ in my view is someone who:

    Chooses to be aware - with integrity, self control and patience
    Chooses to connect - with kindness, generosity and gentleness
    Chooses to collaborate - in peace, joy and hope...

    Despite fear or threat of pain, loss, lack or humiliation.
  • tim wood
    3.2k
    A) the good mark of a man can’t be that which is presupposed in him.

    B) That being said, I’m more inclined to identify the good of a man by his respect for law, the prime facilitator of duty. Respect for law is not a presupposition, but a necessary condition for what follows from it.
    Mww

    a) Why not?

    b) By what means does he come by that necessary condition. Might it be that the good - respect for law - is inculcated? Thus maybe perhaps a blend of both nature and nurture? That is, directed by what ultimately works and feels best and shaped by cultural norms?
  • Mww
    1k


    A.) Because of the quote: nothing can be considered good except the will, which is presupposed in the being of a moral agent. This must include the man, and even the mark of a man. The possession of a good will makes possible a man that does good moral things, but does not necessarily make him morally good for its own sake.

    B.) Oh no siree bub!! Respect is very far from inculcated, by which I understand you to mean instilled from experience, or, taught. Rather, respect is the consciousness of the power and authority of law itself, whatever the content of the particular set of moral laws I simultaneously construct for myself and obligate myself to honor, such that no inclination whatsoever shall usurp such laws. One can never learn that; he must have it in him naturally, in keeping with his own consciousness.

    All speculative moral philosophy, and therefore barely a step above personal opinion, of course.
  • tim wood
    3.2k
    If I read you right, the good (wo)man is one who thinks right and acts right in accordance with the good, viz.:
    A good person is a person who does good deeds.
    Good deeds are those that are good-preserving: that, given good initial circumstances, produce only good consequent circumstances.
    Good circumstances are ones wherein all appetites are fulfilled.
    Pfhorrest

    Well and good. It does beg the question, what is good? - transferred from, what is the good man? You have it as a function of fulfilling appetites. You have this, too:
    I consider moral virtue like this definitionally identical to freedom of will.Pfhorrest

    I'm not sure moral virtue is identical to goodness - I do not think even Kant says it is. As to a free will, Kant shows no tendency whatever to confuse satisfying appetites with free will. Per him, appetition is antithetical to free will.

    I find lurking in the background of your posts presupposed and unexplicated understandings of good, true, truth. Your good person knows what these things are, but we don't know what he knows or how he knows it. If it's practical knowledge, then perhaps learned from experience and inculcated by those with experience? But this would be bound to the culture, and thus not goodness itself. If on the other hand the knowledge has a pure aspect, then what is it in such terms as escape circularity?

    I invite you, then, to offer a definition of the good itself, as a substantive noun.
  • tim wood
    3.2k
    A good man is a just man. Do justice though the heavens fall.NOS4A2
    And ἀγάπη? The good man may be capable of justice, probably ought to be. But justice though heaven fall? God weeps - and you know what happened the last time He did? Are you our Noah?
  • NOS4A2
    1.1k


    And ἀγάπη? The good man may be capable of justice, probably ought to be. But justice though heaven fall? God weeps - and you know what happened the last time He did? Are you our Noah?

    By heavens they meant the sky. Various other versions, for instance in Kant, reiterate the notion but with other types of calamity.

    “The true but somewhat boastful sentence which has become proverbial, Fiat iustitia, pereat mundus ("Let justice reign even if all the rascals in the world should perish from it"), is a stout principle of right which cuts asunder the whole tissue of artifice or force.”

    http://www.gutenberg.org/files/50922/50922-h/50922-h.html
  • tim wood
    3.2k
    The trouble with you, Mww....*
    As it should be, methinks, it being a transcendental conception, meaning it has no object belonging to it necessarily. Others similar being, i.e., possibility, existence, etc. Things are possible, things exist, things are good, but “good” cannot be cognized as a thing.

    It follows that a man qualified by nothing but good in itself, and this good being undefined, is sufficient reason to suppose that to which it is assigned also be left undefined, hence the idea of a good man is unintelligible and the reality of a good man is self-contradictory. Rather, there is a man of good nature, or, a man that does good things, which experience can readily verify.
    Mww
    There is not the good?
    The possession of a good will makes possible a man that does good moral things, but does not necessarily make him morally good for its own sake.Mww
    Is this movement to works as evidence of goodness? And to be sure, being good for its own sake is a conditional that's in question. We cannot even call it Kantian, because his is compliance with the right categorical imperative, without consideration of consequences.
    Rather, there is a man of good nature, or, a man that does good things, which experience can readily verify.Mww

    Kant, it would appear, gives us a law based in reason, that is a law because it is based in reason. And arguably cannot be based in anything else, because nothing else is primordial to, or can ground, reason itself. What, then, of the good, or goodness? Kant gives us "good will" as the only unconditioned good, but as unconditioned it is also empty, being itself nothing but the possibility for doing or being good. That is, the good - a good, any good - is at the least always implied. But Kant's good will is that which complies with his imperative. For him, then, it's a definition, but a definition that does not define the good itself.

    Thus for the good itself, we must either stay with Kant and understand the good as a kind of justice perfected in reason and subject to reason, or abandon Kant and seek a good that rests on its own Ararat, apart from Kant. But that good appears likely to be always conditioned on what they decide is good, which decisions tend to relativism, ultimately to nihilism, although a nihilism of goodness might be interesting.

    That puts us in the hands of @Congau
    A good plumber is good at fixing the pipes. A good bus driver drives the bus safely and punctually. The word “good” has a definite meaning in each case.
    So when asked what a good person is, we have to consider the function of a human being as such; something that would make any person good regardless of his chosen profession.
    Now the task we all have in common as human beings is our dealing with our fellow creatures.... A good person is the one who is disposed to make other people happier whether or not he has the chance to do so. That is what the ancient Greeks called virtue.
    Congau

    And @Possibility
    In a nutshell, a ‘good person’ in my view is someone who:
    Chooses to be aware - with integrity, self control and patience
    Chooses to connect - with kindness, generosity and gentleness
    Chooses to collaborate - in peace, joy and hope...
    Despite fear or threat of pain, loss, lack or humiliation.
    Possibility

    And from these perhaps a different law, of intentionality, in action functionality, in results efficacy, all with respect to what Congau notes is "the definite meaning of good in each case.

    Sense? Nonsense?

    *is that you're both usually right and you get there first.
  • tim wood
    3.2k
    Granted, conceded, acknowledged, and appreciated by and within the dim light that is the best I can do. But, what is all of this to good, the good, the good man?
  • Pfhorrest
    159
    I invite you, then, to offer a definition of the good itself, as a substantive noun.tim wood

    I have been disambiguating between different senses of the word "good". You are asking what is a "good man" in a way that sounds equivalent to asking what is moral virtue. I gave an answer to that in terms of "good deeds", which I defined in a way that I would say is equivalent to "justice": a virtuous person is one who does just actions. And then I defined what makes actions just, in terms of their relationships to the goodness of prior circumstances and consequences, but not in as simplistic a way as utilitarians would. And I defined good circumstances -- and here I have no other words besides "good" to use, so this is where I would apply that word without qualification -- as those in which what I called appetites are satisfied, which as I said is slightly technical language on my part, but which means more or less that pains are alleviated, including pains from lack of things, the alleviation of which is equivalent to pleasure.

    So a "good" (virtuous) person is one who does "good" (just) deeds which are deeds that (at least) don't hurt anyone, or (better still) also soothe existing hurt.
  • Anthony
    168
    He devoid of the Spirit of Conquest, who is honest with himself...who has gone beyond behaviorism, lost desire to achieve in a system that "giveth and taketh away." He who understands the bucket list will be overflowing when he dies, and makes peace with this while still young. He who doesn't understand what people mean when they talk of making an impact in the world. He who doesn't live for rewards (it's either all ends or all means, never a means to an end: he never treats others instrumentally and has a nuanced understanding of what this means). He who lets go with love. Dark triad doesn't apply to him. He's probably an outsider, unsuccessful by external validation.

    Good deeds are poisonous if inner strife is too prevalent; to the extent inner harmony is absent, there is usually a desire to conquer, or make a dent in the outer world. So the good man has no desire to achieve or conquer, knows how much of anything is enough. Homeostasis is a paradigm for his psyche, not just the body. Achievement is a runaway, positive feedback system, which never knows when to stop, or what the endgame is. Then negative feedbacks operate in the nucleus of his mind, he never goes too far in one direction, is never one-sided. He holds some things sacred, sacrosanct, occult. He who can relax and do nothing, with no need for external stimulation. And much more.
  • Mww
    1k
    rests on its own Ararattim wood

    Oh man...a real wordsmith, I must say. William of Warwickshire ain’t got nuttin’ on that. Well....maybe a little. Here and there.

    There is not the good?tim wood

    No, I’m guessing not. Mostly we work with “gifts of nature” as in skills or talents, and “gifts of fortune” as in luck or temperance, as representations of good, but there is no good to be cognized as good in itself.
    ————————

    Sense? Nonsense?tim wood

    Sense, for sure, but not much to do with the predicates of pure moral philosophy. The statement “one who chooses....(x)....is good” in order to give “a meaning of good in each case” can only apply to empirical circumstance and responds to a hypothetical imperative for its precepts, for the presence of the very act of choice has already negated the mandatory obligation of law, which we know offers no choice at all. It is nonsense, on the other hand, to expect an imperative grounded in a mere precept, or inclination, to be the foundation of a moral constitution.

    So sense/nonsense just depends on what exactly is under discourse, seems to me, anyway.
  • Mww
    1k


    That’s actually pretty good.
  • ssu
    1.6k
    What I've got from reading is that a long time ago the good man was he who brought home the bacon, the one who won, and so forth. That is, the good man was the man who did successfully. Failure meant that the man was not a good man -tim wood

    I find this quite troubling and quite honestly very typical for the present where we put victimhood on a pedestal.

    Trying to do well yet failing to win or not to get the job when jobs are scarce has never been a sign of being bad. Not now, not in the past either. Bad in this way would be like a man "trying to stay sober and not hitting his wife and children". If one then "fails" in this 'test', gets drunk and beats the crap out of the wife and the children, this indeed would be considered bad. We wouldn't say the man "tried to be good, but failed, hence poor of him". This 'failure' is indeed totally different from not winning a competition and coming second.

    We genuinely do demand some level of moral behaviour from people and don't accept 'failing' at this basic level of ordinary humane and moral interaction with other people etc. Just where we put this red line is the interesting question, which tells a lot about us and our society.
  • Judaka
    421

    Culture dictates and good men obey.
  • Congau
    28
    Given the chance, does goodness require he do?tim wood
    Yes, having a disposition for something means that when the relevant circumstance occurs, the thing will occur. If you are disposed to catching a cold you are very likely to do so when the weather changes. The stronger the disposition, the more likely it will occur given the circumstances. A very good man will be very likely to do good when given the chance and an absolutely good man will do it with absolute certainty.

    that good appears likely to be always conditioned on what they decide is good, which decisions tend to relativismtim wood
    No, good as in “a good man” is in no way relative. What a good plumber is, is not relative to what you happen to expect from a plumber. If you expect your plumber to treat your leg injury you are simply wrong in your perception of what his tasks may be. Likewise, a good man is not what you just happen to find good about a man. “Good” always means: that which makes a thing work the way it is supposed to.


    There’s a difference between a good act and a good person. A good act I define in the utilitarian fashion as whatever produces more happiness than unhappiness. A bad man may very well, more or less by chance, perform good acts and a good man may be unlucky, but it is their vice or virtue, their disposition, that defines them as persons.
  • Valentinus
    558
    I am not sure "being a good man" is the intention of those who require that we be virtuous. Put another way, virtue hurts the person who would attempt such a thing. A person attempting such a thing cannot be sure if they or others will call them "good" at the end.
    They will just decide stuff and live with the consequences. The Kantian appeal to universal good points to a form of life as perilous as what any saint would have to endure.
  • TheMadFool
    4k
    The good man exists only in inequality. The moment everyone is equal then the good person simply becomes person. The rich person becomes generous and so becomes good. The powerful become humble an so become good. The poor enjoy their meager meals and so become good. The weak don't gang up against the rich and so become good.

    Goodness, it appears to me, requires an imbalance of power, wealth, beauty, etc. In fact we shouldn't aspire to be good because it is a tacit endorsement of extant inequalities. We should, instead, aim for equality.
  • Congau
    28
    There’s an irreconcilable difference between the Kantian notion of a good man and the one who emerges from Aristotelian virtue ethics. Since for Kant only the will can be good in itself, anything that subtracts from the purity of the will makes the person less good. The pure will wants to do something only because it is good and not for any other reason. If a person not only wants to act righteously out of duty but also enjoys doing it, his will is not pure, and he is not necessarily a good man. If someone hates doing what is right and almost feels sick when doing it, but still does it, that person, for Kant, is the ultimately good man.

    I find this idea repulsive. Someone who hates mankind could then be good. The person who acts entirely without passion, obeying some self-made law like a pre-programmed machine would be good.

    The Aristotelian good man enjoys doing what is good, and he has trained himself to feel pleasure when seeing other people pleased. The more he loves mankind, the more he feels the urge to act righteously and make people happy.

    Doesn’t this also agree with our common sense?
    A good mother does everything for her child because she loves the child, right?
  • Valentinus
    558
    All these references to philosophers aside, the way I look at it is that the good person walks a tightrope. The need to vouchsafe personal (including whoever one includes as family) safety against a greater principle of the Good is the obstacle course of Life.

    I have not been a complete coward so far but I am no hero either.
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