Good is a fuzzy concept

Good can be seen in different ways and is therefore hard to recognise or discuss.

This post is part of an introduction to the concept of Rosetta.

One reason why discussion about what is right or wrong doesn’t always have the effect it deserves is that it is so hard to agree on what good is. Different people will have different ways of looking at what’s right or wrong, and even the context in which a right or wrong decision is made can have a major effect on the outcome. If we want to understand good, and be good people, we will first need to recognise these different ways in which you can look at good.

Random descriptions of good or bad

If you would randomly write down different words describing what is worth striving for or worth avoiding, you will probably end up with a list of words that are hard to clearly distinguish from one another. What, for example is the difference between a crime and a violation? And how is a virtue different from a value? Is integrity something else than morality? As there is a risk these terms will overlap and be used loosely, the very concept of good becomes fuzzy.

In line with this post, two exercises are interesting to do: The graph of your life and Make your own ‘good-cloud’.

The concept of good is too important to be fuzzy

The risk of good being too fuzzy is that we get stuck in misunderstandings and endless deliberations. It is crystal clear that fuzziness cannot be tolerated in areas such as medicine, physics or mathematics, yet we seem to have a high tolerance for fuzziness when it comes to deciding what is right or wrong. And yet, doing good and being good is arguably the most important thing to strive for. After all, isn’t the purpose of medical science to have good doctors, so we can do good for patients.

The good news is that we humans have a well-developed moral intuition, so the ingredients are there. The bad news is that we have trouble recognising and properly understanding what it is that we feel and see happening around us. And as we have trouble recognising good, it is very hard to clearly describe it. This lack of ability to describe good makes it very hard to talk about it, hold each other accountable for it, and apply it yourself. We need to become better at this.

The concept of Rosetta aims to provide a way to help us become better at recognising and discussing the concept of ‘good’. Follow my posts about this the coming months to learn more.





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