Being Good

Hey readers.  Sorry it’s been a while since my last post.  A lot has happened since my last post over a month ago.  I left Fredericksburg, a place where I’ve spent the last almost six years (10 if you count college).  My uncle passed away.  He was a good man and will be missed.  A lot of other stuff that I’ll spare you the time reading (though the other two things might get their own posts…I’m not sure).  But for now, I’ll pose the following question.

A couple posts back, I asked for your idea of meaningful living or what qualities or characteristics you thought were vital to your person.  Ethan pointed out that perhaps I was asking the wrong question, and maybe I was.  I’ve been revisiting the thought process, though, having read a couple more writers on the subject, all of whom are much, much smarter than I am, and I’ve come to a related or perhaps superseding question.  What, to you, does it mean to be good?  I don’t mean simply avoiding being bad, because I’m not sure that qualifies as “being good [though, if you disagree, please feel free to make your argument below].”  If you site religious tenants or the following of a specific religion, I’d like you to elaborate more than just, “Buddhism,” or whatever your religion of choice is.  I’m really looking for positive answers here (positive, in this case, meaning proactive things) rather than passive things like abstaining from certain behaviors.  I’m also not looking for platitudes like “progress” or “being nice.”  I’d like you to be as specific as you can and/or feel comfortable being.  I may or may not have follow-up questions for you, and feel free to ask questions of others (assuming this actually gets responses, which it may or it may not; regardless, I figured I’d share what’s running through my head at the moment).

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4 Responses to “Being Good”

  1. ethanfenichel Says:

    Thanks for the shout out, Dave. I think I have to respond now, right? Emily and I were talking about this and agree that moral relativism makes this difficult. I think the question, as posed, can result in an answer that can be put into a position of making the answerer eat their words. For example, being good means following the outcome that is best for you and your society. Is that too vague? What if you know you live in an awful society? I guess it could be acting in the way you’d want people to act towards you? What if there is no one else involved? What if you know that other people prefer a different outcome?

    So, what are some scenarios you have in mind that will allow our morally relative minds go into high gear? Sophie’s choice? Solomon? Truman and the bomb?

  2. justamusician Says:

    Hey Ethan,

    It’s funny, I was actually looking for your blog, but it was easier to find your twitter, and I have a feeling you link to the blog from there, so there’s that.

    I don’t know if I want specific examples, lest it lead to casuistry. I suppose I’m really asking is there a hard ethical/moral code you think that is objectively good all the time? I question the goodness of doing what’s best for you or your society because what if those two are in direct opposition? (Despite my want to stay away from examples, I’ll throw a couple out there to illustrate my point and to see what your answer would be). Say that for some reason you’ve been sentenced to die through starvation because there’s a food shortage (and I don’t mean you can’t afford food, let’s say it’s a universal good that’s provided, but due to shortages, some people get fed and some people don’t – a perfectly controlled market). Should you follow the directive and allow yourself to starve or should you follow what’s good for you and find food? Yeah, that’s an extreme case, but it’s the first one that honestly came to mind. I suppose a less extreme case would be let’s say you have freedom x that you enjoy exercising and society has goal y which requires the elimination of freedom x. Which do you follow? I feel like by giving them weights that are different, you’re indicating one is more good than the other. Is that through sheer numbers or is that through one is inherently more good than the other?

    Also, are you saying that basically there is no objective good outside of what is deemed good by society or is directly beneficial to you? If so, is morality more or less legislated? I’m sorry if that’s not what you’re saying, I’m not trying to troll or create a straw man, I’m just making sure I get what the statement is so I can analyze it.

    Also, sure, I’d love to hear your thoughts on any of the scenarios you lay out.

    • ethanfenichel Says:

      I think a lot of those situations are impossible. What about finding $20 but seeing the person who dropped it? They get into a car and drive away. You don’t know the person. You might be able to track them down or see if they come back tomorrow. Maybe you buy your friend a gift or give it to charity. Whatever is good?

      I don’t know the answers. This is way too Talmudic for me! My point was that good is relative and there are no absolutes.

  3. justamusician Says:

    Okay. So there are no absolutes. Does this include wrongs? It came to me that I should have asked that question in the above, but forgot to, so here it is now.

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