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  1. #1
    stable genius Powehi's Avatar
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    Default What is Your Definition of a Good Person?

    I thought this might be an interesting thread. People strive to be a "good" person, and I'm curious what that actually means to different people. What is your ideal?

  2. #2
    Kawaii Red Memories's Avatar
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    EwWwW you get to hear idealism from me.

    I think being a good person is highly subjective. But nevertheless I feel a good person tends to align with these traits in some way. While they may perform bad deeds, be immoral, etc, the goodness is found in these.

    SOMETHING BIGGER THAN YOURSELF
    That person who is making sacrifices they do not have to make, being bigger than themselves. Unselfish in some way.

    EMPATHY
    The person must have some kind of empathy, where they can understand or try to understand another's pain.

    SELF-IMPROVEMENT
    A good person does not remain stagnant but makes attempts to correct some negative thing. Sometimes it may take them years but they are often willing to admit things weren't exactly as they originally felt.

    HONEST
    A good person is honest with you, for better or worse.

    that's how I'd define a good or bad person.
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  3. #3
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    Its not an "ideal" by any stretch because I think an ideal would involve something much more abstract and perfect than what I think is "good". I actually think that the "good" is in tune with human nature, its not difficult for most people to approximate and I think that in societies which have been at peace, lawful and have not been subject to epidemics of drug use or amorality most people actually do.

    In the main I think that good people are generally consistent in choices and character, they are lawful in the sense of orderly, they can structure their day, week, month, or time in general, understand and think about positive and negative consequences for their self and others, understand and appreciate foreseeability. That is so far as basic character structures go.

    They make choices on the basis that "it may become a universal rule", which could be just another (Kantian) way of stating the "golden rule", which I understand as "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" or better put perhaps would be "love others as you love your self" because if you do not love yourself and take care of yourself you will not be able to take care of others, you will problem be taken advantage of by others or even wind up enabling others who are wicked.

    I also think that the "good" involves an appreciation of the "golden mean", or a rule of moderation, mainly because I think that is a good itself, for the self and others, but I also think that because it accords with a "being" rather than a "having" mode of existence. I think that the "being" mode accords more closely with human nature and is healthier but I also think it is the "good", very possibly even requires more effort to approximate because society, or rather the economy, rests on a perpetuates the "having" mode, going with the flow or going along to get along is likely to involve conforming to that mode.

    Beyond that I tend to rely upon the Kantian categorical imperative, ie that no one should merely be a means to another's end, that everyone's self-determination should be respected, the only grounds for interfering with it is safeguarding themselves and others and that when any interference should take place it should be reviewed or some kind of oversight exercised to limit it. I also think the virtue ethics are a good idea, in the format that Aristotle came up with.

    I think that these different coda or ideas are useful in so far as they approximate some sort of "perennial wisdom". I think it is a positive good if people try to discern what this is, as opposed to passing vogues and fashions, I definitely do not believe in these matters being matters of social construction, or "fables agreed upon", or narratives, or anything like that. When determined the "perennial wisdom" should be respected and passed on, to assist others in avoiding "living on repeat" like 50 First Dates. Social amnesia is the enemy of progress and I think not a lot of people appreciate that. While thinking all this I also think that people should understand why some people want to ignore those things/why they may want to make a break from it or pursue change. Also change is something worth pursuing too, although slow and sure is a better idea most of the time.

    I also think that there's something about privacy and a balance between the private and social/public when it comes to the "good", truly. I dont think anyone can or should expect the public sphere to totally reflect their private convictions or conscience. Most of the world's problems I think arise from believing that it can or should. Some laws can and should apply to all but there are others which I think should be primarily for believers. Those couldnt possibly or should not apply equally to non-believers too.

    When it comes to the social and individual, I think its right to strike a balance. I've grown up in a society in which individualism is paramount and I feel that's right too in some ways. On the other hand I do think that the good involves pro-social choices and behaviour too, even if an individual can not progress beyond a simple "first do no harm" sort of approach to things that is doing "good". Although, I kind of think that this is the "least" you can do and no one should really be that satisfied with the very least of anything, that's not necessarily in tune with the "golden mean". This is different to and more than a basic utilitarianism as I think the greatest happiness of the greatest number could be lethal to lesser number, even where it is not no one really appreciates being beaten with a stick even if its "the people's stick".

    Finally, something more on the topic of utilitarianism, there is a movement in philosophy called "negative utilitarianism", which involves the question of avoidable suffering (utilitarianism being a philosophy about maximising pleasure, positive utilitarianism, and minimising pain, negative utilitarianism). This sums up a greater part of my thinking actually, I think its a better idea often to pursue the goal of eradicating avoidable suffering, while accepting unavoidable suffering as something that must be endured and surmounted some how. However, of late, a lot of "negative utilitarians" have been fans of depopulation, its beyond misanthropy to some kind of "extinction drive" and I hate that.

    I've tried to hit on a bunch of things here but there are others I've not mentioned, it idea of the "vial of ignorance" in Rawls (which I think is derived from Smith actually) seems good and ethical, the idea of the "invisible, impartial spectator", which I know mainly from Smith (system of moral sentiments) than Rawls but could be in Rawls too, makes sense to me too. Short hand for that sometimes is "you are what you do when no one is looking". Empathy, compassion, respect of norms and mores like "gift relationships" and "spontaneous order" are important too. Also, I think some of the writing about an innate psychological "drive to freedom", which Erich Fromm speculated about, and internal conflicts resulting in individuals forfeiting their own freedom and attacking that of others, IS something which relates to good and evil as I understand it.

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    Someone who is true to their word, honors reasonable requests, non-malicious in approach, and is always willing to work with and compromise with those they disagree with.
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    Someone who interacts with others with honest and pure intentions, high integrity, and values and keeps their word. Someone who seeks to improve the world around them, even when no one is paying attention.
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    Anyone who doesn't intentionally harm others and isn't apathetic to their effect on others. Good and perfect are not synonymous.
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    That's a hard one. Aside from your Ghandis and Mother Theresas, there's just too many shades of grey to really say.

    I'd be more inclined to just outright dismiss the application of a Good/Bad dichotomy to human beings. It's too simplistic.

    Behavior can be accounted for without resorting to "a did x because a is evil...b did y because b is good""
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tomb1 View Post
    That's a hard one. Aside from your Ghandis and Mother Theresas, there's just too many shades of grey to really say.

    I'd be more inclined to just outright dismiss the application of a Good/Bad dichotomy to human beings. It's too simplistic.

    Behavior can be accounted for without resorting to "a did x because a is evil...b did y because b is good""
    I think that good and evil is actually a true dichotomy, there are not many, like I do not think that individualism and socialism is a true dichotomy and I'm not sure about society and individuality either (they are not the same thing, or so I'd say), although good and evil pretty much is.

    Like you can be extra good or extra evil or you can be good at one time and evil at another or you can be both simultaneously, in different contexts, but it remains good or evil pretty much.

    Most people are human, all too human and therefore less than perfectly good but it does not invalidate good and evil as descriptors I'd say.

    Like, for instance, I've been reading Baron-Cohen's books on empathy and he starts out describing how evil is a vague category which is not as useful as talking about zero degrees of empathy but he has to resurrect a sort of dichotomy by describing there are negative and positive zero empathy to account for narcissism, borderline and psychopathy (negative zero empathy) and autism, aspergers (positive zero empathy), so you know.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Jaguar's Avatar
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    If someone told me they "strive to be a good person" I'd probably wonder what they're hiding. We don't really give something as natural as breathing a second thought, until there's a problem doing it.
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  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jaguar View Post
    If someone told me they "strive to be a good person" I'd probably wonder what they're hiding. We don't really give something as natural as breathing a second thought, until there's a problem doing it.
    I think this is an interesting point, as on the one hand it should be second (primary?) nature to most people, for some its not and they do struggle with it.

    On the other hand if just normal pro-social or non-aggressive behaviour qualifies you as good is that not pretty basic? Like if someone recommended you a builder there'd be a difference between a regular builder and a really good builder, you know?

    Does being good not mean something more or some sort of improvement on the norm or average?

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