What does “good” mean? 1: What’s the question?

1. The question


What concept could be better known to everyone than that of goodness? Certainly people are adept at using it, together with related terms like “bad”, “right”, “should”, etc. If I say that you should lose weight, or that this is a good pencil, or that eating meat is wrong, everyone understands what I mean. All of those examples relate to different kinds of goodness/badness, but they’re all varieties of it.


It’s hard to decide what would be a good picture for an article about goodness.

So everyone can use terms related to various kinds of goodness. But hardly anyone can really explain what it means for something to be good. That is to say, what if the question we ask is not whether it’s right to eat meat, but what does it mean to say that it’s right? As we will see in the next section, this question is much more difficult than it looks.

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“Against Their Religion” or “Wrong”?

See here for the Finnish version: “Uskonto kieltää” vai “on väärin”?

I’ve seen people asking the question or making the complaint several times: Why don’t people whose religious or other similar convictions are against something, like same-sex marriage, just keep it to themselves? Why do they insist on trying to make others conform to their beliefs as well?

The answer, as far as I can see, is depressingly simple.

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Two Kinds of Morality… Actually, Just One

See here for the Finnish version: Kaksi moraalin lajia, paitsi että oikeastaan vain yksi

There are several different types of views about moral right and wrong, and several ways of categorising them. I will here present one rather important distinction I have observed: between what I’ll choose to call humanist and rule-based ethics, which terms I just made up. Continue reading

Sometimes the “Big” Questions Don’t Matter

See here for the Finnish version.

I don’t think there is any real chance that a God exists. I have reviewed the supposed evidence in the most sophisticated forms I have found, and there is nothing to it, at least given understanding of some scientific and philosophical points. I know people may believe just through faith, but that’s completely against my nature. If there is no reason to believe something is true, then it almost certainly isn’t, and what’s the sense in believing something that isn’t true? So you might say I agree with those who don’t think God exists. Continue reading