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thoroughly confused...

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Not so long ago I went through a minor depression that shattered my view of existance, life, the good and everything I ever knew, the reason is irrelevant.

Today I have recovered tremendously, all because of my strong will to live and be happy. And in a way, the stages I had to go through in order to recover gave me a greater understanding of the whole system of objectivism. But (with an emphasis on but) I still feel confused about some major concepts.

My main question is: who decides what the concept "good" stands for, and what exactly is the objectivist definition of "good"?

I know, from previous studies that the good is that which is proper for life, or rather that which contributes to your gaining and/or keeping the values which are in consistent with your achieving your ultimate goal (life). My confusion seems to lie solely in the name of the concept "good", which has before stood for so many other things (self-sacrifice etc.). How can we claim that our definition of the good is the right one?

I´m not saying that man is anything else than what he is, or that he will achieve life (if that is what he wants) in any other way than by the philosophy of objectivism OR that it is wrong of him to want to live, this is simply a question about concepts.

That the objectivist definition of the concept "existance", "identity", "consciousness", "life" or "man" is right is self-evident, but the concept "good" is not as easy to define.

My reasoning hardly makes sense to myself, but maybe you understand wherein my confusion lies?

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The concept of good is ultimately a relational one, meaning that to say that something is good is to say that it is good FOR something, in order TO ACHIEVE something. The fundamental something to be achieved is life; it is the most basic alternative that exists. The ultimate good therefore is that which achieves life.

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How can we claim that our definition of the good is the right one?

What do you mean by "the right one"? Figure that out and you'll understand. As a simple starting point, determine how other conceptions of "the good" are fundamentally grounded on the arbitrary, and what it would take for a conception of "the good" to have a non-arbitrary foundation.

I don't think Trebor was trying to be insulting - it's just that basic questions like this are asked ad nauseum, and can usually be answered by searching past discussions (or reading the Lexicon, for example).

Edited by brian0918
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My main question is: who decides what the concept "good" stands for, and what exactly is the objectivist definition of "good"?

The fact that you use the wording "stands for" indicates that you are on the right track. Keep in mind that 1) concepts (words) stand for their refferents and not their definitions, and 2) concepts are simply cognitive tools, their purpose being unit-economy (remember the crow?). Reality decides what the "right one" is, and by "right one" I assume you mean the definition that coincides with reality the best.

With a concept like "good", ethics comes into play. Some people think Marxism is good, some think capitalism is good. The way people use a concept like "good" depends on their standard of value. If you think freedom is good, and Joe thinks redistribution of wealth is good, that doesnt change reality, or the way people use concepts. Your definition of the word is probably similar to that of Joe, but the refferents in reality may be different due to your differing ethical stances.


added on edit: Dont take any of this as scripture, I havent studied Oist

epistemology as much as Id like to, yet.

Edited by JayR
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I feel as if you´re mocking me... that´s not the answer I was looking for. But I figure this might be one of those cases where I´ve complicated things that should be self-evident...

I'm sorry if it came across that way; I certainly wasn't trying to mock you. Your question is a good one, an important one, and I thought it was well (and best) answered by Miss Rand in her statements in the Lexicon.

What fact(s) give rise to the concept of good and bad, or evil?

For something to be good, it has to be good for something or someone, etc. It has to be a benefit, a plus (an objective value). Life is the fundamental fact of reality that gives rise to the concepts "good" and "evil"; it is only to a living being, whose existence as a living being is conditional, that anything can be either good or bad, beneficial or detrimental, meeting those conditions or requirements, or not meeting them.

Galt asked, in Atlas Shrugged, "Good by what standard?" (A subjective, arbitrary standard? An intrinsic standard? An objective standard?) To be a valid standard of the good, that standard must based upon a fact(s) of reality, it must be objective, it must be valid. See "Standard of Value"

In reality, it only to a living being that something can be good or bad...for the sake of its life and well-being, or against it.

Values: "To make this point fully clear, try to imagine an immortal, indestructible robot, an entity which moves and acts, but which cannot be affected by anything, which cannot be changed in any respect, which cannot be damaged, injured or destroyed. Such an entity would not be able to have any values; it would have nothing to gain or to lose; it could not regard anything as for or against it, as serving or threatening its welfare, as fulfilling or frustrating its interests. It could have no interests and no goals."

Edited by Trebor
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I assume you know what "goats" and "sheep" are. How do you know that you've got that right? How do you know that this isn't "really" a goat and this isn't "really" a sheep. If you didn't know English, you might be confused, but really, you are not confused -- you know what things "good" refers to.

Trebor pointed to the Objectivist definition of good. It was written by Rand, and therefore it is, necessarily, the Objectivist definition. Whether or not it is correct has to be judged by whether it does correctly identify the concretes that are subsumed under the concept "good".

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Thank you for your replies, my mind is a bit clearer. What I was looking for was the meaning of the word "Good" and that is: "the standard of how to live", which obviously makes the objectivist definition of the "Good" the right one to live by.

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Trebor, you definitely didn´t mock me, I know that. My question and how I stated it was almost impossible to understand, and I suppose the answer I wanted was too self-evident to even cross your mind.

You are already satisfied with the answers you've gotten, but I will offer some different wording, in the hope that it will help. When your mother said, "Eat it, it's good for you," you understood perfectly what she meant (even if you didn't agree!) "Good for you," sets the concept in its proper context. It is what serves your welfare. Welfare represents the fact of life's being conditional.

Since we do not identify what particular things or actions are good the way animals do (for the most part,) but by intelligent identifications and predictions, what a person takes to be the good might be mistaken. That's where bad things get called "good."

So there are two "goods," there is "good" and "the good." "Good" is what is taken to serve one's welfare. Some people think altruism serves their welfare, so altruism is "the good" to them. Others, of course, think selfishness serves their welfare, so selfishness is "the good" for them.

"What good is" is the same for altruists and Objectivists, but what is good differs drastically.

-- Mindy

Edited by Mindy
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For me, when considering questions that deal with value and the good, it is always helpful to retrace the proof of the Objectivist Ethics. Start at the beginning: life is the root of all value. Without life there is no value and no good. (This is actually a conclusion but once you have proven it to yourself, then it is a good reminder of the ultimate value)

Now look at some instances of life starting with some simple ones. There are certain things plants and animals need to stay alive such as water, sunlight, food -- these are their values. They must take action to gain these values. These values are preprogrammed in them so they automatically act, always to stay alive, always in pursuit of their values. If they achieve their values, they will live and that is good for them. If they don't achieve their values, they will die and that is bad for them.

Now apply this to humans but remember there is a new consideration to take into account: man has free will. It is still true that there are certain things of value to us and that we must act to gain them. What isn't true is that we know what those values are and how to achieve them from birth -- we are not automatically programmed with this information. So if we want to live we must figure out what things are good and bad for us and we must pursue the good. And how do we figure these things out? By using our minds, rationally. We must choose to think. If we don't think or think irrationally, then we won't figure anything out and that would be bad for us. If we think poorly and pursue the wrong things, that would be bad.

Thus reason is a primary value and rationality is its corresponding virtue.

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You are trying to explain to me the nature of values and the objectivist standard of good, but I already know it.

what I was confused about was the meaning of the concept "Good", kind of like being told that life is the ultimate value without knowing the concept "value"; that which one acts to gain and or keep, or like being told that something is sad without knowing the concept "sadness".

The concept "Good" is a philosophic term which means; the standard of how to live. The term itself doesn´t mention the purpose of a life (although it only has one purpose) or how to act to achieve that purpose; that is up to each philosophy. The philosophy of objectivism holds self-preservation as the ultimate purpose of a living organism, while other philosophies hold self-sacrifice and serving the Gods as the ultimate purpose. They all have different views on what is good, but the concept stays the same.

Philosophy is the doctrine of life and the Good is the standard of how to live.

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