I think there’s a lot that goes into the question of “what’s Good” with a capital G, and sure, a lot of it is probably subjective, but I wanted to focus on two of them that I believe in pretty strongly: fundamental principles, and reasoned insight.

By fundamental principles, I mean that there are things about people and the world that you can deduce as intrinsic.  You could imagine situations that contradict these “guidelines”, but for the most part they form a reasonable baseline for goodness.  One of them is the idea of fairness, as in there’s no basic reason to treat one individual differently from any other.  Another is the value of freedom: to thinking beings, having choices is generally preferable to predetermined outcomes, so actions that preserve choice are generally “good”er and actions that constrain choice are generally “bad”er.  (I understand that there can be value in violating fairness or freedom, but I think those are much more edge and I am focusing on the core of what’s good.)

By reasoned insight, I mean the kinds of conclusions that rational beings can draw upon given these fundamental principles.  This is where the bluriness starts to creep in, because two people acting rationally can either (1) disagree on the correct application of principles to situations, or (2) disagree entirely on which principles apply and in what priority. Some of the conclusions that people reach (and that I agree with) are:

  • Faithful/loyal service should be rewarded (projecting fairness backward)
  • Treat strangers well (projecting fairness forward)
  • Promises should be kept (expectations of outcome that constrain individual freedom should be met)

This is all a very highly logical view of things.  I think you could unravel a lot of systems of thought down to these principles-and-conclusions, and I may try to tackle that one day.  I do know for sure that if I can identify what principles and conclusions a person I am interacting with is using to define “good,” I’m always in a much better place to understand them (and myself, in relation to them)!