These virtues are formed in man by his doing the actions … The good of man is a working of the soul in the way of excellence in a complete life.”
― Aristotle, The Nicomachean Ethics
Subquestions and everyday application
- What is good and what is evil? Axiology (theory of values);
- Are humans basically good? Why do good?
- Human nature- what is it? Can goodness be explained by human nature or we need something beyond?
- Is good an absence of evil, or is it something more beautiful?
- Is cooperation the same as friendship? Who are my friends and how?
- Is giving better than receiving?
- What does goodness mean for you?
How to work on the answer to Question #3
Working on this question should make you smile, should make you good about mankind. Think about a good person, he or she could bring a good story. How has goodness started in your life?
Example by Vinny Zembruski: “The birth of a child. Pure, innocent and uncorrupted”.
View more answers on Philozophy.com
Some people are sad, hopeless and cynical. They will benefit from this question. They should edit their answer until they smile and weekly afterward.
It was an autumn hike in Tennessee. We walked noisily, deep in dry, golden-red leaves. I asked Sophia, my daughter, and the co-author of Philozophy.com, whether good is just the opposite of evil and both concepts are inevitably “glued” to each other, or whether it is possible to talk about good as a separate entity.
Sophia: An even more basic question is whether the concepts of good and evil make sense, or the World just is, not good, not evil, just is…. But humans make stories and in a story there is always a battle between good and evil, one or the other are winning, like the balance of the scale.
Me: (Somehow, I wanted the answer to be that good and evil are separate and different) But, look, Sophia, the caveman had to choose between competition and cooperation. Cooperation was good and independent of evil, while competition was separate from it- one person was winning which was good for him or her; the other was losing.
Sophia: More questions than answers… Another one is the obvious difference between bad and evil. And there are no clear opposites of these two. In our discussion, we think about that good which is the opposite of “evil”, it is almost like “good intention” or “goodness.” It is different that the simple good /bad distinction.( “I broke my leg”, versus “I did not break it!”)
Me: Ok, next question: what would 10-years old Sophia think about the origins of good?
Sophia: Let’s try 20-years old Sophia. She would think that the World and its Creator are essentially good. Therefore, all things are created for a reason even if they seem to us bad or evil, they are ultimately good because of the ultimate goodness of the Creator. Well now, I think that 10-years old Sophia might have said that nature was good before the humans came along and messed things up, everything was good, the humans are the source of the split into good and evil.
Me: Can you think about a life event that contributed significantly to your present position?
Sophia: “ I think I am still figuring these things out. But surely, my professional education was this life event. I always had curiosity and creativity, and this helped with this drive. But only when I realized that I can help other people, can create good, can help them to create good for themselves… that felt really good.”
Me: “How would your answer help people representing different worldviews to talk about values, to talk about good and evil? (I think, it is education again?)”
Sophia: It is not my “answer,” it is what I do. And sharing how I am figuring out my place in this world might help. This brings a more important conversation: “what is the origin (and practice) of my creating good?” If I can, for example, help to create a system which allows teachers to teach better. And for others, it can be something completely different: like making some pretty babies or picking up the trash from a park…And inevitably this brings up the other side–what is the origin of my evil?
Me: Wow, interesting!
Sophia: Yes, I have to think about that often in my work. Am I impatient with somebody who isn’t following my workshop? Am I belittling somebody who doesn’t agree with me?
Again, other people might have different problems, but we all have to carry out “internal audits.” We have to be aware of our own “negativity bias”.
Sophia: Humans pick up and experience bad things easier than good ones, a brain remembers worries and hurts and fears 10 to 20 times easier than praise and acknowledgment and gratitude.
Make a “laundry list”–and mine is different than yours–to see how to be an agent of good and avoid being an agent of evil.”
Me: Thank you, Sophia, we did not solve any philosophical questions, and this is good because all philosophical solutions are wrong. But we talked and thought about them, and this type of conversation brings incredible benefits of working on your personal worldview.
Sophia: (laughing) I feel better already.
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