Good is an Atom

At a recent talk I attended, the speaker rhetorically asked what ‘good’ means. He then answered himself with some wordy philosophical gibberish that I can’t recall, but the gist of which was that ‘good’ is that which tends towards human fulfillment, or some such tripe. The problem with any answer like this is that we can immediately ask, why do we care about human fulfillment (or whatever we’ve tried to identify as a more fundamental concept than ‘good’)? But the answer to that question, it seems, can only be something like “because human fulfillment is good.”

Trying to define ‘good’ is like trying to build a Lego brick out of other Lego bricks. Lego bricks are the fundamental building block of Lego structures, and you can’t build a fundamental piece out of other fundamental pieces. Similarly, you can’t define ‘good’ by reference to other concepts. Following the Lego metaphor, you can understand good by trying to attach it other fundamental bits and seeing what sticks and what you can build, but this is not defining the concept, only exploring it. Beyond the Lego metaphor, we can explain why such a thing as a concept of ‘good’ exists (e.g. by some sort of evopsych analysis of the social function of morality), but explanation is not definition.

‘Good’ is a conceptual atom. The things we like, that we are drawn to, that we pursue, are called ‘good;’ ‘good’ is the subjective quality that makes them likable, attractive, or worthy of pursuit. It is entirely subjective. There may be wide agreement about good among humans, particularly among humans in the same culture, but that’s to be expected because of the evolutionary function for which a concept of good evolved. But the phenomenological experience of good is not amenable to objective criticism beyond pointing out cognitive dissonance.

So sure, human fulfillment is good (IMO), but good is not human fulfillment.

good is imposed on me

Hmm, no. Good can be both objective and subjective.
Something objectively good is something that will maximize the well being of conscious creatures.
Something subjectively good is like you said, something that someone likes or is drawn to, regardless of the consequences of that action.

I disagree volchok. Theres no such thing as objectively good.

You CAN say that something is objectively healthier (as long as health is defined by some objectively measurable benchmarks) or that something objectively generates more chemicals that usually cause “pleasure-like” sensations. But saying that something is “objectively good” in common usage implies alot more than these previous statements. Unless you redefine “good” as only referring to objectively measurable characteristics, then I don’t believe anything can be said to be “objectively good.”

I’ll send you a pm with what you need to know to understand my view.

I’m thinking that the most elemental of all Lego bricks are those flat, single-nipple ones, which are essentially no good, except for decorative purposes. But combined with flat, double-nippled bricks, one can build equivalents of many other fundamental pieces.

Perhaps, too, “good” is like a single-nipple Lego: no-good in and of itself, but of use only when combined with other fundamental concepts. Deciding which concepts and when, though, is a situational issue.

One manner of situation would be akin to building a predesigned structure according to the included instructions.

Another would involve the organic creation of whatever it is one discovers one has ended up building.

In either case, it’s sure a pissoff to discover one is out of single-nippled flat bricks when one is in need of them, even if only for decorative purposes.

“Well” is the adverbial form of that of which “good” is the adjective form, so you’ve included the defined in the definition.



i can build a really good lego pyramid

Agreed, Oughtist, you Ought to speak more frequently and loudly.

I think ‘good’ is simply what persists around us. Something which propagates itself in whatever medium is involved - good behaviour is repeated, maintained, lauded, damned, in the same way a good table is kept, and a wobbly one put up with for a while, before being consigned to the fireplace. Dynamic, rather than absolute.

I second Sauwelios’ response:

Another way of saying this is to point out that you’re offering conscious-creature well-being as a superseding value that gives good its good-ness, but the only way it can do so is if conscious-creature well-being already contains something that we would call good. We don’t like good because it generates conscious-creature well-being, we like conscious-creature well-being because it’s good.

What are you trying to say when you suggest an objective good? Would it be objective in that inanimate objects are subject to it (such that we might punish a pothole for causing an accident)? Or is good something that only binds conscious creatures, such that the common interests of all conscious creatures are the objective good? And if the latter, how can we be sure that there are such common interests? In a fight for limited resources, two tribes of conscious creatures may have no common interest.

I don’t understand. Do you mean to suggest that there’s some undefined atom that becomes good when it interacts with other atoms? If so, I don’t see how that’s distinct from any concept. Left only makes sense in relation to right, and luckily we will never have to deal with a directional monopole to figure out what left means in the absence of right.

No, I think I’m suggesting that, while the respective atom is defined as the “good” atom, it is the other (constructions of) atoms which become good when the good atom properly/successfully fits into them, as either a decorative accent or something less strictly aesthetic. What counts as proper success, granted, I have no succinct explication for: it can’t be an equivocation of good, nor, more generally, can it be anything that might be given atomic representation in itself. It must be a situational designation, apparently pulled out of one’s butt (which is indeed a skill, akin to flying by the seat of one’s pants, …such as I am doing right now :smiley:). Alternatively, good is not an atomic concept.