Saturday 23 March 2024

What is the GOOD?

 Trevor Watkins 23/3/24

What defines a GOOD life? 

There are many good answers.

The answers are different for everyone.

The answers change with time and circumstances.

Some answers are “gooder” than others.

But, Is there an absolute good?


Here are some words that some people apply to a good life (you'll find many of these in facebook posts from your laid back friends)

Love, pleasure, courage, wisdom, knowledge, free time, truth, humility, chastity, wealth, health,happiness, freedom, common interest, family, survival, genes, species, reproduction, challenge, power, success, opinion of others, security, long life, eternal life, friends, companionship,comfort, order, chaos, pride, honour, purpose, legacy, religion, planet, beauty, justice, novelty, well-being, surfing, god

We can simplify the list by dividing it into categories:

  • Feelings

    • Love, pleasure, happiness, security, comfort, family, beauty, well-being

  • Virtues

    • Courage, wisdom, truth, humility, chastity, honour, purpose, justice, authenticity

  • Survival

    • Family, reproduction, genes, long life, eternal life, health, legacy

  • Success

    • Wealth, power, challenge, opinion of others, pride

  • Intellect

    • Wisdom, knowledge, truth, challenge, order, purpose, novelty

  • Existence

    • Freedom, free time, life, self actualisation, surfing

  • Service

    • Family, common interest, friends, companionship, religion, justice, god

  • Nature

    • Chaos, ecology, species, planet, animals

Is there some minimum standard of good?

  • Planetary survival

  • Species survival

  • Personal survival

Is there some common standard of good?

  • Food

  • Water

  • Sleep

  • Sex

Most should agree that

  • Family & friends & freedom are good

  • Love, pleasure, happiness, beauty, wisdom, well-being are good

But amazingly, some don’t… such as 

  • Christians 

  • Muslims

  • Nationalists

  • Nazis,

  • Nosey parkers & know-it-alls

Not all agree on the importance of 

  • Security

    • Never more alive than when faced with the prospect of death

  • Health

    • Smokers, drinkers, drug takers

  • Safety

    • Extreme sports, surfing, rugby, boxing

Some believe that there should be no suffering, no pain, no conflict, no fear.

We should have peace, tranquility, harmony and order.

And this should be unchanging and eternal, and the same for everyone.

However, this describes death, which not all believe is good.

Lets look at the bigger picture. What is Nature's plan for the universe?

  • Increasing chaos (entropy)

  • Probably followed by contraction and compression of everything

  • Finally resulting in a very unstable marble

So much for the big picture …

Historic views


The highest form of knowledge is the Idea of the Good

Humans have a duty to pursue the good, through philosophical reasoning

Epicurus, father of hedonism

All we need for happiness is food, shelter, clothes, friends, freedom, thought

Believed that physical pleasure (bliss, contentment, relief) is the ultimate good.

He preferred pleasures of the mind to bodily pleasures

He advocated moderation as the surest path to happiness.

Utilitarianism of Bentham and Mill

Prioritized the good by considering pleasure, pain and consequences, based upon the maxim of utility; “That which is good is that which provides the greatest happiness for the greatest number.”

Popular even today, but deeply flawed.

Modern views

The ultimate good exists and is globally measurable

Economic Freedom of the World index

Gross National Happiness index

Genuine Progress Indicator

The good is "That which increases the quality and quantity of choices available overall."

Free time is the most fundamental good

The success of society as a whole

A single person's life is not important in itself

The flourishing of all sentient life - life itself is of intrinsic value

What is the greatest good?

God Knows.

As a disembodied spirit, separate from time, space and worldly concerns, I would guess the acquisition of perfect knowledge

As a living human being, here and now, Enjoy the ride!

My personal view

3F Principle


Their love, safety and well-being


Free time, free choices, free thoughts, free acts


Friends, sports, hobbies, travels, adventures, entertainments, achievements

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