Just Merveilleux?

Life at № 42

If Goodness Is Represented by X

Last night I couldn’t sleep and I was thinking about that tired line on how can there be goodness without “god”… But – what is goodness really? Isn’t the very notion sort of delusional? Something we use to silence voices within? I mean, how often are we not quite good? Or in situations where we could clearly be “better”? And when we worry about being good, what’s really behind that?

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56 comments on “If Goodness Is Represented by X

  1. darthtimon
    October 4, 2017

    There is an idea among theists that they alone have a sense of unshakeable morality – that atheists cannot possess or even understand morality. Of course, theists judge morality by standards set in religious texts, and some of these texts condone acts of genocide, slavery and other acts that most people would actually baulk at. They typically then go on to say that we cannot judge God’s morality by human standards.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. inspiredbythedivine1
    October 4, 2017

    As an atheist, I can tell you that “good” is BBQ christian baby. DELICIOUS!!! That’s the only “goodness” I need, brother.

    Liked by 5 people

  3. Anony Mole
    October 4, 2017

    All morality is formed, not in the vacuum of scientific study, but in the muddy, sticky, convoluted and confused notions of a society. Your good might be my bad. Is this absolute? No, only that your environment has built a certain ethical system different from my own. And remember, all of this is then driven by evolutionary pressures. We “get along” (mostly) not because we choose to (although there is a portion of our behavior which is self-directed) but mostly we get along because it has been good for our survival.

    Liked by 4 people

    • The Pink Agendist
      October 5, 2017

      So do you think the “impulse” to be good/do good is a sociological construct?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Anony Mole
        October 5, 2017

        Absolutely. Impulses would be emotive output formulated within the confines of a sociological environment in concert with those humans living in said environment. Certain impulses are no doubt based on deeper evolutionary systems: hunger, aggression, sex, possession, but even those would be molded by one’s village.

        Good for you and Good for your village are undoubtedly different as viewed through a narrow window. But this window ignores that if your village survives, without you perhaps, your DNA — maybe those of your children — will continue.
        Self sacrifice is really what all the “good” boils down to (guessin’ here but it feels right on the surface.) Perhaps to be good means to surrender part of yourself. And to be bad means to take. I’ll have to think on this concept for a time…

        Liked by 2 people

  4. john zande
    October 4, 2017

    Good is pleasing. Good reduces suffering.

    Liked by 1 person

    • inspiredbythedivine1
      October 4, 2017

      This just in from CNN: Good is tossing rolls of paper towels to hurricane victims whilst visiting Puerto Rico.

      Liked by 1 person

    • The Pink Agendist
      October 5, 2017

      Why? How about schadenfreude – or freudenshade?

      Like

      • john zande
        October 5, 2017

        There will always be exceptions 😉

        Liked by 1 person

      • The Pink Agendist
        October 5, 2017

        Well, I’m considering if evil isn’t a more intelligent choice. Think about it, goodness as a general concept serves the primordial purpose of keeping the masses in line – but how about our leaders? Even the ones that seem sort of good, sometimes do some really appalling things that would be precluded by our notion of goodness. Things like Chappaquiddick…

        Like

      • john zande
        October 5, 2017

        Chaos doesn’t work. But what we do is a little evil: enlightened self-interest is directed by selfishness.

        Liked by 1 person

      • The Pink Agendist
        October 5, 2017

        General chaos doesn’t work, but doesn’t breaking the rules of “goodness” work to great success?

        Like

      • john zande
        October 5, 2017

        Ah, not if everyone does it.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. coteetcampagne
    October 4, 2017

    Goodness is a concept that we impose on ourselves when we are feeling particularly smug.

    Kindness, fairness and selflessness are all much more admirable and quantifiable qualities.

    Liked by 2 people

    • The Pink Agendist
      October 5, 2017

      But are we not always measuring ourselves against that goodness standard?

      Like

      • coteetcampagne
        October 5, 2017

        Probably. But I measure myself less and less against accepted norms. Though I think that I’m a natural empath and that makes me appear kind/good.

        Liked by 1 person

      • The Pink Agendist
        October 5, 2017

        So you believe in that concept? An affirmative sense of goodness in the (your) self? And I presume one you strive for?

        Liked by 1 person

      • coteetcampagne
        October 5, 2017

        I don’t actually believe in anything actually, but I know that I am empathic, so……
        I would like to think that I do some good because of the nature of my day job.

        Liked by 2 people

  6. dpmonahan
    October 4, 2017

    I like Plato’s notion of goodness as the capacity to enrich the existence of other beings. It is a broader, more dynamic idea than our modern one of conformance to an extrinsic notion of goodness. Of course conformance is easier to judge and experience.

    Liked by 4 people

    • The Pink Agendist
      October 5, 2017

      Yes, I think that´s the official “correct” position. I suppose I´m wondering how often we bastardise the concept of good to suit our own agendas/interests? Are we not always rationalising to fit our triangular selves into the rectangular slot of goodness? So we are not just fooling ourselves into believing we´re “good”? Or from another perspective, do people who cause harm know it? And to what degree?

      Like

      • dpmonahan
        October 5, 2017

        In a bourgeois culture bending our notion of good to meet our interests is the most common thing.
        I don’t think it is possible to do evil thinking “I am going to do some evil”. You always focus on some good thing that the evil is a means to achieve. That doesn’t mean a person isn’t often aware of the evil he is doing, but he sort of coaxes or tricks himself into doing it. He lies to himself long enough to get the evil deed accomplished.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Arkenaten
    October 4, 2017

    Goodness is doing the dishes when you’d much rather be watching the soccer.
    🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Hariod Brawn
    October 5, 2017

    Yes, ‘goodness’ is a vague term, often applied to mere appearances. ‘Harmlessness’ seems more helpful, more definable and quantifiable. Some might see the two as synonymous. But what is maximal goodness other than pure harmlessness? Without an answer we may as well abandon the former term. One can be ‘quite good’, but not ‘almost harmless’.

    Liked by 3 people

    • The Pink Agendist
      October 5, 2017

      But harm can be found in almost any action. So where does that leave us?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hariod Brawn
        October 6, 2017

        Er . . . being not very good?

        Seriously, I think we have to factor in intention/volition to accept your premise — perhaps mine too.

        Like

    • Bela Johnson
      October 6, 2017

      Thank you. I never worry about being ‘good.’ I do, however, concern myself with harmlessness. ‘Good’ brings up religious judgment from my childhood. ‘Harmlessness’ is simply karmic correctness, in my view. Love you.

      Liked by 2 people

      • The Pink Agendist
        October 7, 2017

        That’s lucky. I worry all the time. There isn’t a day when I don’t ask myself if I shouldn’t be doing “more” something or other.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Bela Johnson
        October 7, 2017

        I think surely some of that is conditioning and some likely your nature. We all perpetuate our own suffering, and it is in coming to that realization that one begins to relax a bit around the “shoulds.” Or at least that’s how I’ve experienced life. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Clare Flourish
    October 5, 2017

    Mary Oliver:

    You do not have to be good.
    You do not have to walk on your knees
    For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
    You only have to let the soft animal of your body
    love what it loves.
    Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
    Meanwhile the world goes on…

    Liked by 5 people

  10. acflory
    October 5, 2017

    Interesting question, PInky. On a purely personal level, I define goodness as the degree to which I manage to live up to my own ideals. As I strongly believe the old Christian concept of ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you’, that’s the standard of goodness I try to achieve.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. keithnoback
    October 5, 2017

    Did you ever get to sleep, after falling down that rabbit hole?

    Liked by 2 people

    • The Pink Agendist
      October 5, 2017

      I rarely *really* sleep. I wake up four or five times a night, every night – ever since I can remember.

      Like

  12. Steve Ruis
    October 5, 2017

    Let’s see …you’d better not shout … you’d better not cry … you’d better no pout … just be good for goodness sake! I know this because “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.” Santa is apparently related to Yahweh because he “sees you when you’re sleeping, he knows when you’re awake” … pervert!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Steve Ruis
    October 5, 2017

    Seriously …

    Allow me to quote from the book “Good Without God”:

    “This is not a book about whether one can be good without God, because that question does not need to be answered—it needs to be rejected outright. To suggest that one can’t be good without belief in God is not just an opinion, a mere curious musing—it is a prejudice. It may even be discrimination. After all, would you ever ask: Is it possible to be a good person if you’re Muslim? Or Buddhist? Or Jewish? Or Christian? Would you feel comfortable working for an employer who implied that all gays and lesbians were immoral? Or all Democrats? Or all Republicans? How would you feel if your daughter were planning to marry someone who claimed that all Catholics were lousy, unethical human beings? Or all Protestants? This is the sort of all-or-nothing condemnation of a huge population one is making if one suggests that goodness and morality require belief in a deity.

    Epstein, Greg. Good Without God: What a Billion Nonreligious People Do Believe . HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The Pink Agendist
      October 5, 2017

      Aaaaah, but my question precedes that point. I want to know why I want to be good at all?

      Like

      • Steve Ruis
        October 5, 2017

        There is a range of “goodness” that people will tolerate. Get too far out on either extreme and you will be socially ostracized. If you become “bad” you are danger of being one of those people who wouldn’t “piss on you if you were on fire.”

        Being good or not is all about other people. No one has their own standard of goodness in the absence of interactions with other people. So, the standard of goodness is set by those others … they even write songs about it and create enforcement myths (Santa, Hell, etc.).

        Liked by 1 person

      • The Pink Agendist
        October 5, 2017

        Where does Mr. Trump fit in that scale of being ostracised? And what practical effects does that have? Or Aung san suu kyi?

        Liked by 1 person

  14. persedeplume
    October 5, 2017

    “One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture, and, if it were possible, to speak a few reasonable words.” Goethe.

    “And have a happy ending” Persedeplume’s corollary.

    Liked by 3 people

  15. Steve Ruis
    October 5, 2017

    In national politics, each “star” has a cohort calling them “good” and another calling them “bad” and there is almost never complete uninimity. Politicians like Mr. Trump surround themselves with people who think he is “good” for the country, etc. (Or maybe so “bad” they need to have a close watch kept on them.) Mr. Trump’s secretary of state recently admitted he referred to the president as “an idiot,” but I am sure it is “in a good way.”

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Helen Devries
    October 6, 2017

    For me, being good is carrying out the responsibilities I have freely undertaken – certainly not those thrust upon me by society, religion or any other institution.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. keithnoback
    October 7, 2017

    It is always tempting to turn to Mackie’s formulation: Goodness is such as to satisfy the requirements of the subject’s particular kind (slight paraphrase).
    But that is the same as saying that goodness supervenes upon the category of good things. And, the good in things supervenes, in turn, upon functionality and satisfaction.
    However, Kant pointed out that sentiments like satisfaction do not satisfy moral requirements. Most of us would at least admit that a mother donating a kidney to her child’s murderer on the basis of the charity of the act in spite of her sentiments is morally superior to a similar donation to her child, simply based upon her motherly sentiments.
    Then again, Moore and Hume noted that we cannot pick apart the world to find what we ought to do or even for an explanation of what we value, morally.
    So, Mackie’s formulation begs the question by substituting satisfactory functionality (in a moral sense?!) for Good, without further clarification.
    I think Goodness is a term we mistakenly use to refer to a putative property which can be manifested, when we really mean to refer to a class of activities or a method by which we try to reconcile truth (and I mean minimal truth), our apprehension of truth, and our motives.
    I realize that I can now be accused of doing what I just accused Mackie of doing, because whence truth and whence our motives?
    OK, but maybe it is a bit of progress?
    Who knows, too. I may wake up at 0300 tomorrow having changed my mind completely.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. coteetcampagne
    October 7, 2017

    Aroundandaround we go.
    ,

    Liked by 1 person

  19. “Aaaaah, but my question precedes that point. I want to know *why I ***want** to be good* at all?”

    I think you “want” to be good because you have seen it in others and you admire them. By “wanting” to emulating their goodness you are desiring that admiration by yourself, for yourself.

    We have all known very good people, we remember them, we admire them. Not perfect people but truly good people.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The Pink Agendist
      October 12, 2017

      That’s very interesting. I think I lean towards the same conclusion; the desire for goodness is (deep down) transactional.

      Like

  20. theoccasionalman
    October 9, 2017

    I think that goodness is always linked to a purpose, and that our generic idea of ‘good’ means ‘fit for heaven’ (or did originally), and other types of good are fit for some other use. Instead of thinking that I want to be good, I rephrase it as I want to be useful, and then the path to that goal becomes clearer.

    Another concept that gets tangled up with ‘good’ is peace with oneself, and that can involve all sorts of actions and attitudes that intersect strangely with ‘good’ as ‘fit for heaven.’ In terms of my mother’s church, I’m a gay apostate fit for the outer darkness, but I find a lot of peace and self-comfort from the decisions they might consider evil. Their concept of ‘good’ doesn’t correspond to what is good for me.

    Liked by 1 person

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