What is “the” Good?

So, one quick thing, before I start talking philosophically:

Nick just blogged again. And it’s really good. This kid is such a great writer, and this post is a bit longer than his other ones, but I promise that it’s just as good! Go check it out.

Cool stuff.

Anyways, here’s the meat of my post.

I was tasked, today, with turning in a research topic proposal to my Philosophy professor by email, knowing that the topic I submit will eventually transform into a presentation I give at the end of the semester.

My proposal was only a page in length, which is what our professor asked for. I essentially proposed that I research something relating to the ability for humans to transcend their own tendencies for selfishness and to act in pursuit of Justice and the Absolute Good. I had originally wanted to talk about how the ancient Greek philosophy schools (the Stoics, the Epicureans, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, etc.) influenced Christian thought, and how that manifested itself into St. Ignatius of Loyola’s Spiritual Exercises and Jesuit Spirituality. The question of good was my wanting to take that farther, and use theological perspectives, such as Jesuit and Franciscan Spirituality as a means for understanding morality in this sense, and the purpose of Justice and pursuit of Absolute Good. I was then going to use historical examples (Mother Teresa, Blessed Miguel Pro, Blessed Oscar Romero, etc.) to help in understanding the role of unselfishness in Justice and Absolute Good.

My professor emailed me back, with a fairly long email, affirming my choice of topic, and helping me better frame it, by instead of placing so much emphasis on “Absolute Good” (which I purposely mirrored in this blog post) to relate it instead to Plato And Aristotle’s view different features of the same good: one of which is transcendence, and the other of which is immanence.

He explained that to focus on the absolutism of Good, which would be to say that good can exist out of our context and worldview, is morally challenging. How can we say that a good that is absolute, which is freed from our relation to it, is good to begin with, if our pursuing of the good is what makes it good in the first place?

Instead, the focus might be better contextualized for my research by focusing on the transcendence (how good goes beyond what we can completely define it as, even as we strive towards it?) and the immanence (how goodness makes itself known to us by human action). In this regard, my already forming arguments seem to fit better in the frame of my proposed research, especially with my background knowledge in theology, and my specifically laid out examples of humans I hoped to use.

What I found profound was that, possibly, the search for an absolute good is the same as the claiming all good is relative: both are flawed, because we humans hold limited knowledge. Within my context of faith, I would understand that God is good, but from a philosophical context, I wouldn’t be able to argue that there is an absolute good, as I don’t know everything. Therefore, my time is better understanding how we come to understand goodness, and then taking that understanding to examples of how it’s lived out. I feel we should do more of this in our own lives.

All of this is to say that I’me very excited for this research, and for this project. I hope to find something truly wonderful, and possibly share that here. Wish me luck!



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