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  1. #1
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    Default What do you think it means to be TRULY good?

    JivinJeffJones and I got to talking in vent about Dostoeyevsky's The Idiot. Here's a synopsis from wikipedia:

    27-year-old Prince Lev Nikolayevich Myshkin returns to Russia after spending several years at a Swiss sanatorium. Scorned by the society of St. Petersburgh for his Idiocy (epilepsy) and being too generous and innocent, he finds himself at the center of a struggle between a rich, kept woman and a gorgeous, virtuous girl who both wish to win his affection. Unfortunately, Myshkin's very goodness seems to bring disaster to all he meets, leading to a climax that tragically reveals how, in a world obsessed with money, power, and sexual conquest, a sanatorium is the only place for a saint.
    The central theme, described below, is a prevalent theme in western literature. Questions concerning the bridge and boundary between the private and public, and especially where the good person stands in all this.

    Dostoyevsky's motives for writing The Idiot stem from his desire to depict the "positively good man". This man is naturally likened to Christ in many ways. Dostoyevsky uses Myshkin's introduction to the Petersburg society as a way to contrast the nature of Russian society at the time and the isolation and innocence of this good man.
    So the question, to which I honestly have no clue how to answer and am leaving up to you guys:

    How do you define a good person? And would such a person be able to exist in society without being executed, marginalized, or shunned by either the governing authority or the general populace? Is our current society any different from the ones of old concerning the way it deals with "good" people? If the answer is no, then how would our current society have to change itself in order to do this? Do you think it's even necessary at all for such a change?

    Tough questions... but I think, important ones. Answer one or all if you can, though any thoughts at all would be appreciated.

    ***EDIT*** - Let's forget the Idiot and focus on the one big question.

    What do you think it means to be truly good?

    Forget the everyday use of the term "good" and let's be philosophers about this. Let's see if we can come up with a definition of "good" that we can all agree with - or one that goes beyond the general understanding of the "good."

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    Quote Originally Posted by SecondBest View Post
    The sanatorium is the only place for a saint...
    Exactly true. You are severely limited by the norms of your environment, and seldom is being saintly (even by the standards of those in your environment) conducive to survival or socializing within that environment. In my world, the American world, truth and righteousness are resigned to a slow death to be replaced by lies, illusions, greed, selfishness, etc. The reasons why one cannot be saintly are many and complex. But I suppose if you have the strength to truly stand ALONE, then you can enjoy a world of your own where righteousness and truth are still supreme. Just don't expect to share the same world as anyone else.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Risen View Post
    Exactly true. You are severely limited by the norms of your environment, and seldom is being saintly (even by the standards of those in your environment) conducive to survival or socializing within that environment. In my world, the American world, truth and righteousness are resigned to a slow death to be replaced by lies, illusions, greed, selfishness, etc. The reasons why one cannot be saintly are many and complex. But I suppose if you have the strength to truly stand ALONE, then you can enjoy a world of your own where righteousness and truth are still supreme. Just don't expect to share the same world as anyone else.
    This is incredibly well put and I agree totally. It's that conflict between social values and the good person's values. If you can stand alone, great. If not, well, the good person is either going to have to impose said values on the world, which doesn't necessarily make him/her a good person, and inevitably run into conflict with the values of society and well... someone's gonna die or be sent away to an isolated place. Either way, it seems, the good man is isolated no matter what.

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    Junior Member craigensa's Avatar
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    For the first question, the notion of a good person is entirely subjective. Man is inherently selfish and will always find it easier to do things for himself (survival of the fittest and all). Some make more of an effort to be kind and altruistic than others will. But the will to survive is strong, as has been demonstrated many times throughout history, and this necessitates some form of selfishness.

    Some may consider that a good person is someone who has been particularly kind to them. Others may view e.g. clergymen as good people for desiring to help others regardless of whether they have personally helped them, but devoting a life to serving God in my view is also a form of self-preservation or self-improvement. Others may say 'they haven't got a bad bone in their body', but does that mean they aren't taking care of themselves first and foremost?!

    VieAmeMusique put it very nicely in vent...'There are people who are better than others.' Does that make them flawless? NO-ONE is without fault.
    "Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life." Berthold Auerbach

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    Funny that I will have to re-quote this... I posted it in the INFP quotes today, as it inspires me.

    Quote Originally Posted by Abraham Maslow in [I]Motivation and Personality[/I]
    Ought a biological species be judged by its crippled, warped, only partially developed specimens, or by examples that have been overdomesticated, caged, and trained?
    ---
    Persons can be found who are good, very good indeed, in fact, great. There do indeed exist creators, seers, sages, saints, shakers and movers. This can certainly give us hope for the future of the species even if they are uncommon and do not come by the dozen.
    He wrote a lot about this. I think his ideas should be more popular than they are... at least I didn't hear anything about this in school.

    -->Self-actualization - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    He also knowledges that the imperfect society feels restricting to these people, and they can't be as good as they would be in a "perfect" culture.

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    Quote Originally Posted by craigensa View Post
    For the first question, the notion of a good person is entirely subjective. Man is inherently selfish and will always find it easier to do things for himself (survival of the fittest and all). Some make more of an effort to be kind and altruistic than others will. But the will to survive is strong, as has been demonstrated many times throughout history, and this necessitates some form of selfishness.
    Let's say for the sake of argument that the notion of a good person is objective. There's got to be a reason why when we look at certain people in history, for example, Gandhi, MLK, or Christ, that most if not all people can agree that these were "good" people. How then would you describe the common thread among these popularly chosen good people?

    Some may consider that a good person is someone who has been particularly kind to them. Others may view e.g. clergymen as good people for desiring to help others regardless of whether they have personally helped them, but devoting a life to serving God in my view is also a form of self-preservation or self-improvement. Others may say 'they haven't got a bad bone in their body', but does that mean they aren't taking care of themselves first and foremost?!
    OK. I should make this clearer. As this is in response to the idiot, where the concept of an ideal good man is explored, let's talk about that concept instead of what would be considered good in ordinary vernacular.

    VieAmeMusique put it very nicely in vent...'There are people who are better than others.' Does that make them flawless? NO-ONE is without fault.
    How do you define being better than someone else? What does it mean to be flawless? What does it mean to have fault?

    I'm trying to gear this discussion more towards potential idealistic concepts of the good as opposed to the assumed and understood understanding of that word itself.

    In fact, forget anything I said in the OP, let's just ask this plain and simple:

    What does it mean to be good?

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    Quote Originally Posted by nolla View Post
    He also knowledges that the imperfect society feels restricting to these people, and they can't be as good as they would be in a "perfect" culture.
    Notice where I live. lol.

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    Junior Member craigensa's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SecondBest View Post
    Let's say for the sake of argument that the notion of a good person is objective. There's got to be a reason why when we look at certain people in history, for example, Gandhi, MLK, or Christ, that most if not all people can agree that these were "good" people. How then would you describe the common thread among these popularly chosen good people?
    They got people to follow them in a non-violent cause. Ergo perceived as good because people believed in them.



    OK. I should make this clearer. As this is in response to the idiot, where the concept of an ideal good man is explored, let's talk about that concept instead of what would be considered good in ordinary vernacular.



    How do you define being better than someone else? What does it mean to be flawless? What does it mean to have fault?

    I'm trying to gear this discussion more towards potential idealistic concepts of the good as opposed to the assumed and understood understanding of that word itself.

    In fact, forget anything I said in the OP, let's just ask this plain and simple:

    What does it mean to be good?
    Again in vent, someone said 'to have transcended ego'. I responded with 'well that's impossible'. I'm tired and brain is hurting, so someone take this up please!
    "Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life." Berthold Auerbach

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    The central theme of Good is "Do no harm." People who are perceived to do no harm no matter what the provocation (MLK, Ghandi, Jesus) are considered good.

    I think another is forgiveness. As in not rubbing peoples' noses in it if they make mistakes, and always believing in their highest self.

    Another is humility.

    I think good people inspire the good in others. I think some people are truly gifted with a disposition and personality that lends itself towards good, and if they are brought up with the education and opportunity to strengthen that, then they're shining lights for the rest of us to look up to. I think good people are enobling.

    Provided they are competent. Lack of competence will take the whole thing down.

    I know that in business, you can be good, you can do the ethical thing, refuse to stoop to your opponent's antics, be cordial in the face of dirty tricks, etc., and win handsomely. I think bad people don't succeed long term, and bad breeds bad until everybody ends up miserable.

    Maybe another part of Good is lack of the notion of scarcity that makes people act cut throat, like there's not enough for everyone, they have to win all the time at all costs. Maybe part of being good depends on trust that you're meant to be here and so you will be able to meet your needs.

    Just exploring some ideas.

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    Occasional Member Evan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by craigensa View Post
    For the first question, the notion of a good person is entirely subjective. Man is inherently selfish and will always find it easier to do things for himself (survival of the fittest and all). Some make more of an effort to be kind and altruistic than others will. But the will to survive is strong, as has been demonstrated many times throughout history, and this necessitates some form of selfishness.
    I don't think, given your definition of selfishness, that the fact that all humans are selfish is relevant to whether or not humans are good. If everyone is selfish, the term 'selfish' loses all meaning, as it doesn't distinguish between kinds of things (which is the point of adjectives).

    Also, saying the notion of a good person is entirely subjective implies there is no difference between definitions of the term 'good'. There surely are better definitions than others.

    There are also people that don't favor the desire to survive to certain things. Those people may not be 'evolutionarily fit', but they do exist.

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