Вы находитесь на странице: 1из 9


Being as Good, or Valuable

Status of the pueaion. So far we have uncovered three great transcendenta/ prEer-
tiesof berng (i.e., one that is co-extensive with being, found wherever being is
found, hence one that "ttanscends" or leaps over all boundaries of class ot kitrd
of being): namely, every being is one, actiue, innlligible. Now, after examining being
as goal-oriented, striving dynamically for its own self-realizadon, and as
ptoceeding ftom the one Ultimate Source of all perfection, we are in a position
to bring out into explicit focus the next great transcendental property, the good.
This coresponds to the other great drive of the human spirit one aspect oithis
unified ddve is the ddve of the intellect towards being as intelligible (the truth of
being): the other, which we will now examine, is that of the will toward being as
good, ualuable. (fhe good could be examined before the discovery of God as
Source, but it can be done more adequately afterwards.)
Main Pmblens, A. !7hat is the meaning and natur of the good? B. \what are
the main kinds of good? C. Is every being as being good, and if so, why?

A. Meaning and Nature of the Good

(1) Discouery: $7e discover the good from our experience of desiring, lovrng,
valuingvarious berngs, i.e., from the dvnamic ap€titiue side of o* nrt*. (rn the
odginal root meaning of "appetite": from ad-peto, to tend toward something).
Thus the good appears as the corelative of this ddve, i.e., as the object of ir
apetitive dynamisms of desiring, loving, valuing, admiring, both sensitive and
spiritual. Thus Aristode defines it as "that which all things ieek." Let us call this
apetitive tendency toward, or response to, something as an act of ua/uing ot ua/-
uation. Hence the good appears as the aaluable: that which is, or can be, the ob-
ject of any positive act of valuing ot valuation, which in a very wide analogous
sense can be called an act of lorting. Hence the good is that which is in some way
Note here the intrinsically relational character of the good. It does not signify
some character of a thing considered purely in itself without reference to any
valuet (which can be identical with itself). Then we would speak of it merely as a
mode of "being" or "perfection." To call something "good" connotes some kind
of at least implicit valuation.
ffhis relational character was not always clearly understood or brought out rn
the Neoplatonic and early medieval tteatments of the good, which Lnded to
treat the Good as an ultimate Absolute in itself, without reference to anything
else. The telational chatacter, alteady present in Aristotle, comes into frrll explicil
recognition with St. Thomas and after him.)
Q) Relation to being The good does not add something on to being that is
really distinct from it as an absolute or non-relative quality. It is the ieing itnlf
that is valued, called "good," not something else that is not it. Hence th.-g""d
Centtal Ptoblems of Metaphysics - (106)

signifies the object or being itself that is valued, precisely as the object of ualuation,
i.e., considercd in relation to some aalaer. Uke the other transcendental properties
of being, it is identical in reality with being, but is distinct in concept ftom being and
the other properties because it adds on or connotes the special relation of being
valuable ta something (whether to itself or to another). Hence the good is being as
ualuable, loaable.
p) out descripdon as
Good as gtnthesis of objectiue and subjertiue poles. lf. we leave
above, it contains an ambiguity, often noted and exploited in the history of
thought. If the good is "what we seek or love," then it is a circle to say that we
seek the good, fot the good is simply whatevet we seek. Hence the question
arises: "Is something good (or called good) simply because we seek it, or do we
seek it because it is good?" In a word, is the good a purely subjectiue asPect that we
confer on things precisely by our seeking them, without it being at all objectively
grounded in the thing sought itselP Or does the good sigru& something intrin-
sically in things that makes them porth valuing by us or the valuer in question?
Subjectiuist ualue theoies. Spinoza seems to have held this: that "things are good
precisely because we seek them." Many modern value theorists also hold this:
thete are no objective values in things, value is a purely subjective property
confered on things by the valuer's interest in them.
Critique: If this means merely that nothing can be called good save in relation
to some valuer, there 'would be no problem. But if it also means, as seems clear
enough, that there ts no objectiue ground for their being valued within the being
valued, making it truly worthy of being valued, then it becomes putely arbitrary,
irrational, and contrafy to our actual experience and ordinary meaning of the
good and the valuable. For then someone could value anything at all, declate it
truly good, for no reason or ground in reality at all, simply hrs sheerfat or decree.
But this is clearly against our expedence. We strive for most things because we
really believe they will obiectively fulfill us, make us happy, be good for us, so
that without them we will not be as happy; it is not enough fot us simply to
decree that something is good for it to turn out truly valuable for us (then we
could all be "rich" with a few pieces of dust, declared to be precious stones); and
we also argue with, try to petsuade others, that such and such is truly good, wortbl
of betng loued, and that if I am wise, reasonable, in tune with reality, I should value
Hence the proper understanding of the meaning of the good should include
both the objertiue and subjectiue poles. We are norv ready to define it finally:

Defnition: The good is that which is aaluable. i.e., possesses some positiue qualitjt (or
"perfection") that renders it apt or worth1 tu be ualued b1 some ualuer (some appetite de-
sfuing or loving it).
Note 1: Something does not have to be actually valued by something to be
propedy called good. It is enough for it to be apt or worthy of being valued.
Good - (107)

Note 2: This definition allows us to make sense out of what we call an

"apparent good,r' i.e., something that seems good to someone but in fact is not.
If the good were purely a subjective creation this would not make sense. What-
ever appeffed to be good would be good, as long as the valuer valued it.
Note 3: The good does not have.to be consciousl1valued. Any positive ten-
dency towatd something as a goal is enough to frrlfill the notion of rppeite analo-
gous/1. Thus we say "Water is good for a plant."
(4) Two main grvunds for valuing something as good:
(a) as somethngperfectiue of the ualuer, to be possessed by the valuer the good-
(b) as something to be admired, approued, esteemed in an objective and disinter-
ested way, as perfecting another, or simply the universe as a whole, as good for
being itself (better that it be than not be): thegoodfor another, or the goodfor, orin
itftlf, the good from the universal viewpoint of being itself. The love appropdate
to (a) is the loue of possession (often called the love of concupiscence of desne); the love
appropdate to @) is the loae of beneuolence, wishing well to another for its own sake,
or simply admiring something for its perfecrion, its beauty, nobiJity, etc. St.
Thomas sometimes calls it love of coruplacenq4 or approval: we delight in the
good, nttfy or affirm it for its own sake.
Note that this second kind of self-forgettinglove is possible only when a human
being dses above his/her biological drives, oriented towards his/her own self-
perfection, to live with his/he1 inlslligence and will in the wide horizon of being
itself, becoming able to recognize and approve the good wherever and for
whomevet it is, taking the ultimate supra-subjecttve uiewpoint of beingitself,which
teally means that of its Ultimate Source, shadng in the all-embracing viewpoint
of God himself. For just as the adequate object or horizon of the intellect is
simply being itself in all its fullness and participations. In a signifrcant sense,
then, one can say that since the goal ot object of the will is this universal, unte-
stricted good, to love whatever is good, for itself, is precisely the highest self-
fulfillment and self-perfection of this faculty and hence of the human being.
Thus the metaphysical and psychological paradox that the highest self-perfection
fot the human being is precisely to go beyond his/her own pardcular finite self
and its immediate concerns in univetsal self-forgetting love. "He who loses him-
self shall frnd himself."
Aristode's analysis of the good tended to be restricted to the more biological
viewpoint of self-petfection: the good is the actuality that fulfills our potency or
need. St. Thomas, following him, seems at times to do the same, as in his fa-
mous definitlon: "Bonum est qaod est perfertum in se et perfectiuun alicttius" -- (the good
is that which rs perfect in itself (ptossesses some positive perfection) and perfettiue of
some appetite (capable of fulfrlling, enriching something). If one takes the perfec-
tiue tn the widest sense as the goal of intellect and will--to embrace the totality of
being and the good--his definition can include good as obiect of the love of
Central Problems of Metaphysics - (108)

benefi.cence, altruistic love. He comes perfecdy clear when he takes up the

theologrcal virtues of charity, etc. or love of God for his own sake, and love of
friendship, which loves one's friend for his own sake and not merely fot the
good one gets out of him.

B. Kinds of Good
(1) The good, since it is as wide as being, is analogous like being, just as is the
dynamic act of ualaing of which it is the object, depending on the varying kinds of
appetites, kinds of objects valued, and lcnds of perfective relations involved.
Q) Moral and ontological goodness Moral goodness is that propff to a moral act,
as conforming to the moral norm of what oaght to be done here and now by a
free and responsible person. This is the concetn of Ethics.
Ontological goodness belonss to the order of the zq not the ought, and signifies
that which is rn fact valuable or perfective of someone in the exrstential order,
whethet he ought morally to seek it now or not. Our concern here. Thus a glass of
beer is an ontological good of a modest order, but it might not be morally good
to go for one here and norv. Among the onlologira/ goodr
(a) Useful goals those that are not valued for themselves but only as means
torvard the achieving of some other good. E.g., shovel, a can opener.
@) Intnnsicgoodr. those valued for themselves, as in themselves good, not for
the sake of something else. E.g., knowledge, love, happtness, beauty, friendship.
These in turn can be valued eitber as to be possessedby the valuer, goods-for-me, or
to be admired, approued in themselves or fot others, willed for others.l
Analog of ualuing lowng In addition to various types of human ot petsonal
love, love ranges over a wide spectrum, from the conscious free love of persons
at the top, down through the conscious but non-ftee, instinctual love of animals,
to the unconscious blind striving of plants for their fulfillment, all the way to the
sheer natural drive of inanimate entities toward their self-unfolding and self-
expression in action. Every action, as we have seen, is governed by a ltnal cause
as a goal, and every goal has the nature of a good. Since the final cause is at the
root of all action of any kind, it is true, as Dante said, that "Love makes the
world go round." "Each being," St. Thomas says, "loves and seeks to preserve as
far as it can, its own being, as a good."
When love is of an absent good, it has the character of desire. When of z presenl
good, it takes on the character of fraition or de/ight rn the good as possessed. Thus
God's love for Himself, the plenitude of all goodness. The only adeqaate object
that can "draw" or the divine love is His own infinite goodness, but He
can love his goodness in two ways: as to eryo1 or as to sbare with others, as in

'See corresponding kinds of love in previous discussion.

Good - (109)

.hJa/e the existential,extraaerted character of love compared to knowledge.

I(nowledge dtaws its object into itself, into its own mental world. Love draws the
lover out towards the obiect of his love as it is in itnlf n the real otder, to be
united with it in its reality. As known, I turn ice cream into a mental being; as a
good, I want to eat it in its reality. Thus we draw up to our own level whatever
we know that is below us; we dtaw down what is above us. But love draws us
down to what is below us, up to what is above us. That is why it is better, the
medievals said, to love God than to know Him, bettet to know lower things than
to love them (for themselves).

C. How to Judge Obiective Goodness or Value

If goodness, value, is not something purely arbitnary or subjective, but has
some objective gtounding or foundation in things themselves, which makes them
intrinsically apt tobe valued, desired, loved, then the quesdon alises, What is the
objertiue ground, tbe objectiue reasons,for diverningandjudgingthis aalue in things?
There are two main orders of objectiae ua/ue:
(1) The Relatiae Order, where the good in question is restricted to the horizon
of a particulat being or qrpe of beings. Such goods are expressed linguistically in
such ways as this: "This is a good nan. This is a good friendship, a good p^irtiog,
good Scotch, etc." Or it can also be expressed in "good-for" teffis, such as:
'Joggrng is good for John. Friendship is good for man, etc.; water and sun are
good for plants, etc."
Q) Tbe Absolute Order of Being itrelf. Tl:us occurs where a being or kind of be-
ing is declared to be in itself without qualification a good or value in itself, as
seen within the whole horizon of being, i.e., on the absolute scale of all being as
intrinsically good. This is expressed linguistically in such ways as: "Friendship is
good. Love is good. Beauty is good. Humanity is good. Plant and animal life are
good. God is good."
Note 1: Objectiue Cmund of the Cood in the Relatiue Orden Here is where the
good arises naturally out of the basic metaphysics of natue as dynamic center of
action, with natural potentialities, final causality, etc., in a wotd, nature as natu-
rally oriented towards its own self-fulfillment or zct:gahzatfon. An objective good
or value for a given being is wbateuer fulflls in some signficant wa1 its natural
potentialities--always with a view, of course, toward the integated harmony of
these potentialities contributing toward the unified perfection or firlfillment of
the whole beins as such. Thus a sood man or sood woman is one who haS
achieved a high degtee of firlfillment or actualizatfon of his or her natural poten-
tialities as a human being, either man or woman. A gd-apple-u"" is one that
has firlfilled its natural potentialities as an apple tree. A good friendship is one
that fulfills the natute ot basic potentialities of friendship as such. So too for a
good painting, good Scotch, good milk, etc.
. Central Problems of Metaphysics - (110)

The same basic rule applies for judgrng whether something is g:ood-for a given
being. It is objectively good for the being in question if it frrlfills in some sigrufi-
cant way the latter's natural potentialities, brings it to a fuller completion or ac-
tualizauon of its own dynamic nature, oriented towards the frrllest participation
rn the perfection of being that is possible fot its given essence. Thus health is
good, for man, animals, plants. !?isdom, love, friendship ate good for man.
Scotch whiskey may be goodfor some people, not good for others, and cetainly
not fot plants, though it may still be "good Scotch" as Scotch goes.
Hence wch judgnents arc not arbitrary, purefi subjectiae. The structure of the nature
and natutal potentialities of a being is something quite real and objective in itself,
independent of merely subjective whim or decision. Hence one can argue with
others about the objectivity of such value judgments, which can therefore be true
ot false. Thus the basic potentialities of the human being, ranging from
biological survival, up through his spiritual natute as knowing and loving, to his
radical orientation towatd the Infinite Good, yield a whole spectrum of objective
values for the human being, which must be ordered to form a total integated
Note 2: Objectiue GmundforAbsolun Eualuation in Order of Being Here the basic
norm is simply how much a being paticipates in the basic perfection of ex-
istence in the univetse, the degree of its fullness of being in relation to the
Infinite perfection ( = Goodness) of God as Ultimate Source of all being. This
degree of perfection is then objectively recognized, valued, admired for its own
sake by ont inlglligence and will, ordered towatd universal being and goodness in
Note 3: Relation of Relatiae to Absolute Order of Good: The Relative order of
Good must ultimately be based on the Absolute Good. Rcason: The firlfillment
of a particular being is itself a good only because it is a degtee of paticipation in
the absolun aalae of beingitself,by which all particular goods are good.

D. Every Being is Good

This means:
(1) Only eistentialbeing, being in the strong sense, is properly good, St. Tho-
mas insists, and precisely because of its act of existence, the root of all perfecdon, of
which essence is only a limiting mode. Hence mental beings (ideas, numbers,
possibles, logical entities) are not goods and subject to being loved in themselves
as mental, except in so far as the projection of them as real draws us and we want
to make tbem nal. otherwise, we could be perfectly h"ppy noutitthilIovpossibk
wealth, friends, etc. The good, unlike truth, is radically existential for Thomas.
Q) Eaery nal being is good in some way This is one of the most profound and
ultimate metaphysical and personal quesd.ons, affecting one's whole outlook on
the univetse according to one's answer.
(a) Opinions,
Good - (111)

Ancient Manicheans, There are two Gods, one the soutce of all good things,
the other of evil. Beings made by the latter; princrpally matter, are intrinsically
evil. The wodd is a warfare between the two Principles; the human being's des-
tiny is to collaborate with the God of Good for ultimate victory. Matter is the
main source of evil, hence the body and sex, maniage, which piopagates bodies.
St. Augustine first held this, struggled long to get out of it.
Nnplatonism: Plotinus and followers - Matter is the great source of evil, the
absence of form, where the radiation of Goodness and U"ity fiom the Source
through form finally dies out in sheer multiplicity.
Most Jewish and ChiCIian tbinkers, All being is good because they are made by
a good God in His image. This derives pardy ftom Old Testament Revelation
(Genesis 1:21: "God looked upon all that He had made, and behold, it was very
good."), and partly from philosophical reasoning, trfing to show how reason
confirmed reveladon. St. Aagustine worked out the fust philosophical explana-
tion of evil as negation, allowing all being to be good. one of the great daring
optimistic affrmations of medieval Chdstian thought, that all being as being is
good, and evil is a form of non-being, the pdvation or absence of some good
that ought to be present and is not.
Many empiicistt and other modern philosophers (atheistic existentialists like
Sattte, etc.): Being as such is purely a brute fact, neuftal, neither good nor bad,
"value-ftee." Goodness and value are not in being itself naturally but imposed
from without by the human being, the valuet, the "creator of values," of for
some German idealist schools, is derived from a higher realm of ideal being dis-
tinct from real being. Evil is also a quite positive mode of being, for many, who
considet the medieval and modem scholastic position outrageously optimistic,
untealistic, and callously indifferent to the reality of evil. Note that if one holds
that evil is something real, he cannot hold that all being is good.
@) Argunent wb1 eaery being as being is good: To see the point of this argument,
it is essential to meditate on beings precisely in their positivity as what actually
exists, not in what they lack which should be there ( = .nil) or in some evil ef-
fects they may ptoduce. To see being in its positivity is to see it as good.
(i) Every being, precisely insofar as it er, is a paricipation (no matrer how
limited) in the great central perfection of the universe, the act of existence, the
source of all perfection, value, goodness, hence an image of the Infinite Pleni-
tude of all goodness ftom which all existence ultimately comes. As such every
positive bit of it has its own perfection thtough and through. This intdnsic per-
fection is both good, vahtrble,for its own self, consideted as a dynamic act or en-
ergy embracing its own being and striving to preserve and increase its own
existence and perfection; and also deserves to be acknowledged, admired, es-
teemed, appreciated fot its participated perfection by any rational being uritl in-
tellect and will capable of knowing it for what it is.
. Central Problems of Metaphysics - (112)

To thus appreciate the goodness of certain types of berngs it may take a great
effort to detach oneself enough ftom the particular effects of this being on me to
reach a disinterested contemplative oudook that can see it as it is in itself, not
just in what it means to me, especially my body (e.g., mosquitoes, which seen in
themselves where they can't hurt me as marvels of delicate and elegant biological
engrneering, etc.). But it can be done, and this opens up a whole world. Mystics
(both natural and religious), poets, artists, contemplatives, childten have found
the way to do this. It requires a non-pragmatic, non-utiJitarian oudook on being,
sharing the divine viewpoinu "God saw all that He had made and that it was very
A succinct way of summing up this latter ground for the value of all being is
this: It is the goal or perfection of every intellectual knowing to know the whole
range of being, whatever is insofar as it is. Hence to know any being (though not
necessadly to possess it or be united with it) is a patial fulfillment, therefore
good, for such a knowing power. To know as such is a good, an enrichment, if it is a
knowledge of real being.
(ii) In addition, it is an empirical fact that every being we know seems to have
some aspect under which it is petfective or good in some way fot at least some
othet being(s): e.g., to be eaten, used, a source of pleasure, etc.
Nola that the success of the above arguments depends upon the success if a
complementary tbeory of eril as piuation of being, as a form of non-being, the ab-
sence of some mode of being that shou/dbe present, er'il as the "holes" in being.2
If the theories of good and evil are taken together, it does not seem that they
depend on belief in God as creator of the universe (a good God). 'Ihey are illu-
mined and reinforced by such a belief (philosophical ot religious), but even with-
out holding this it does not make sense to hold that evil is a positive berng, and if
not, then all being as being is necessarily good, though clearly not alwa1s good in
euery walfor euery beingj
(c) How do we judge beings as higher or lower, better or less goo& This problem
causes gteat difficulty to many modern people: by what tght do we, finite human
beings with a limited human perspective, rank other things as lower or higher
than ourselves in any objective scale of goodness or value? Isn't a rabbit lowet
than a human being only from a human point of view? Isn't all value judgment
relatiue to the point of view of the valuer?
This position, which sounds plausible at first, cannot be thought through.
Thete ate, of course, very relative points of view for human valuation, from the
point of view of sense pleasute, making money, etc. But it is the \rery nature of
inlslligence as a spiritual power ordered to being as such, the ultimate and
unlimited horizon, that it can know things as tbel stand in the order of being itself,
and hence can value them accordirgly. It is of the essence of any intellect and

next section.
Good - (113)

will to be able to rise above the merely self-centered viewpoint of the knowrng-
willing subject to a transcendent viewpoint of being itself. If rabbits had rntelli-
gence they too could do the same. If they do not have it, they cannot eaen raise the
question of comparative value outside their own narrow hodzon of sense knowl-
edge, hence we alone on this earth as possessing inlslligence and will can and
must value everything on it. But if more tntelligent beings from another planet
came in, we could quite easily judge them to be higher than ourselves.
What is the niteion for judgrng petfection? A thing's ontological perfecuon is
judged by what it can do, action. Thus a human being can know with intellectual
knowledge and love, transcending time and space and merely sense objects,
although he can also know and love these; an animal cannot do the former, and a
plant can do neither.
Objection: Does not the quality, not merely physical quantity, of an action have
to be taken into account? But thrs implies that rve already have a critenon for
Response: True. Therefore it seems the ultimate cr-iterion is really how
somethmg compares with the radical exigenry for tllal perfecliln rn the unrestricte,i
drive of our intellects and wills. Tlus is the ultrmate court of appeal, beyond
which there is in principle no criterion that can be shared by different knowers.
But in terms of this ddve we can judge that we oarselues are imperfect, both telatively
and absolutely. It is the nature of every intellect and will, ordered to being and
the good as such, that it be a parlicipation in absolute knowledge and loue, hence has
both the right and the duty to judge every being, even God! as being and good.
To hold the opposite cannot be thought through without absutdity. Try!

E. Summary of Transcendental Ptopeties of Being

Every being as being, insofat as it is being, is actiue, 0n€, true (intelligible), gaal.
Many hold it is also beaatiful, following the Neoplatonists. The lteautful = is that
whose contemplation @eing as known) gives--or is intrinsically apt to glve--delight
(b.itg as good). It is the indescribable "splendor or light" shining out from the
existence of such a teal being through its form. God as pure existence would be
pure beauty.