The Ontology of "Good"

Goodness has nothing to do with pleasure. A serial killer takes pleasure in totruring his victims before he murders them. We do not assign the value of good to this individual.

Just observe the inherent distinction the definitions of goodness and pleasure. The former is a judgement about something, the latter is a experience of something.

Plato has some interesting dialogues on goodness, so not a bad place to start.

Oh sorry for the misinterp.

That’s a question that people have been trying to answer for thousands of years, and arguably it has not been resolved to anyone’s satisfaction. It’s likely to be broken down a bit more before one attempts to answer it, how does one come to know the “Good”? Before one asks what it is, don’t we have to understand how it can come to be known?

Is it given, intuited, felt, or judged? Does the ‘good’ originate from individual’s assigning value (that is a good deed you did!), does it stem from a priori principles (all such deeds are necessarily good because they conform to the categorical imperative!), does it derive from some authority with absolute knowledge of the good who can pass it down to us mortals (God), and of what nature is it?

Relative, Steve judges that action good, Danny judges same action bad; or universal, compassion is always a good characteristic. Then again, is it contextual, compassion for an enemy soldier charging at Danny with a bayonet is bad for that particular situation. For the last case, one does not necessarly have to say that compassion is a bad characteristic, rather, a bad application to the given context. These are just starting points.

How does one come to know the good if it is outside oneself? Is it like a number? Some sort of abstract form? You can’t touch the ‘good’ afterall, you can’t taste it or see it . . . though, perhaps, in a bit of a mystical fashion, one might argue that you can feel the good (I guess this would be emotivism). If so, are such feelings universal in nature? What about sociopaths? Are sociopaths born this way, or nurtured into sociopathology? For if nurtured, the borders between the nature of emotions blur at the edges.

What is the good? Are we talking about a universal concept (is it even a concept, where is it’s root?) or only a subjective concept (what is good is what I know or say to be good for me and me alone).

That’s all I got for now, sorry man.


That depends on how you define reality. Husserl attempts to get around the problem by defining what is real as what is temporal. Good, conceptually speaking, is for starters a) a thought content, b) a concrete linguistic object, and thereby no less real in the sense above defined than my fingers.

One does not have to go platonic here, as you see, for consider number. You might say numbers are invisible. But are they false? Do we not have knowledge of numbers in the form of propositions? Take number as a noun, four is an even number. Four is the subject, even number is the predicate, and one has a priori knowledge that four is an even number simply from the subject itself. Now, look what this abstract “invisible” number can do, it can affect our physical world. Mathamatics allows us to travel into space. That’s very physically real. Likewise, when we talk of good and bad. If one says evil is in the world, the axis-of-evil, one doesn’t find it concretely in Iran, North Korea, etc. Yet it is a specific kind of judgement about states of affairs very much in the world. Just like numbers.

The abstract, from a phenomenological perspective, is no less real than anything else. The hard part is, getting to see the timeless nature of the object. For the number four, stripped of all concrete instantiations, still has a specific unity about it which distinguishes it from say, Red. And here we have essences, according to Husserl. Now, to know this, we must have the ability to percieve from the first person point of view. The percieved percept is a content in thought just like anything else is a content for thought, to which other individual egos can intend and thereby come to know.

Yes, temporal existence. Aka, real existence.

Sight. More specifically, phenomenological sight. It’s the best analogy we have for the mind’s eye.
Husserl gave Heidegger eyes, according to Heidegger, and that’s no small contribution.

What DOES “exist in reality”?

How do we determine what, if anything, is independent from thought?


The term is used in Husserl’s phenomenological sense of the word; real defined as temporal. Contrawise, any timeless object is ideal for Husserl.

Now, like a number, a value such as ‘Goodness’ has temporal and timeless instantiations depending upon whether one is thinking of goodness clearly and distinctly as a specific (techinically, for Husserl, Species) unity, which makes it ideal, or a temporal concrete instantiation as a linguistic object. Now, the linguistic object means something, and it is that which it means, through our intentional grasp of the meaning, that becomes fullfilled through the act (the intentional experience; from a first person point of view).

Remember, this is the phenomenological approach, not the everyday man’s “natural attitude” to the world.

The intentional experience where meaning-intention reaches meaning-fullfillment.

To describe the exact process will take more time than I have at the moment (midterms next week), so at best I can suggest to refrence Husserl’s Logical Investigations 1 and 2, Moran on Husserl, and outside sources that explain Husserlian phenomenology.

btw, we cannot know of anything independent from thought, only through thought, through transcendental idealism. Which does not mean things are in the mind, but that all objects of possible experience are filtered through and conditioned by the mind, including both concrete and abstract objects. Now, in phenomenology as Husserl describes it, the essential differences may be seen through the interaction between subject and object. The box in one’s head (the box of consciousness) and the box of the object, and the relationship between the two is seen through the box of phenomenology which is the bigger box in which both boxes are within. And yes, it is done through the subjective first person box, but to explain in further detail how, I refer you to Husserl and his forty-eight thousand pages of phenomenology.