An Insight on Good vs. Bad

[Introduction / Abstract]

Today during a (somewhat) philosophical discussion, I had a thought (which I’m sure has been hashed out before) with regards to ‘Good’ vs. ‘Bad’, but I figured that I may as well write it down for my own record.

The insight is basically two-fold:

  1. A human cannot meaningfully make a judgment of ‘Good’ vs. ‘Bad’ on another human’s life (this was actually established in a previous post.)
  2. If a higher being (or a ‘God’ of some sort) does not exist, then it’s impossible to make a meaningful judgement of ‘Good’ vs. ‘Bad’ on a human life.

[Discussion of Insight Part #1]

With regards to the first item, it’s clear to most that humans collectively have established ethical standards that define what sorts of intents, actions, and results are ‘Good’ or ‘Bad’.  For example, humans would generally agree that if you run into a room of innocent people with the intent to kill them that this is a ‘Bad’ intent regardless of the outcome.  Following through with the ‘Bad’ intent would qualify as a ‘Bad’ action which results in a ‘Bad’ results.  An example of the converse would be that humans generally agree that if you intend to increase the happiness of another through acts of charity that this is a ‘Good’ intent regardless of the outcome.  Following through with the ‘Good’ intent and serving food at a homeless shelter and making people happy would qualify as a ‘Good’ action which results in ‘Good’ results.

That being said, however, in order to judge the entirety of a human life to be ‘Good’ or ‘Bad’ I believe you would need a perspective (say, one of a ‘higher being’) that would allow you to observe a human life in it’s entirety.  I discussed this in some depth in a previous post.  I admit, however, that there’s a lot of room for discussion and argument on that topic.

[Discussion of Insight Part #2]

With regards to the second item, this basically follows from Part #1.  I’ve generally established that humans can’t meaningfully judge a human life as ‘Good’ or ‘Bad’.  The justification behind this is that a human does not have adequate perspective to judge ‘Good’ or ‘Bad’ as they don’t have the ability to view the life as a whole from start to finish and determining the net effects of all actions made by that human.  Additionally, a human does not have the proper insight.  What I mean by this is best illustrated through an example.  Lets say that you’re performing a science experiment and your goal is to create a blue fluid.  You mix various chemicals and you ultimately determine a formula that produces a blue fluid.  As a result of this experiment you mark the discovered formula as ‘Good’ as it accomplishes the intended goal.

Now lets zoom out and make some big assumptions… lets say there’s a God.  The God is performing a similar science experiment of sorts, but the God’s goals in the experiment are not known to any human.  The God tries various different experiments, each of which creates a new universe (or perhaps it’s a smaller scale: a new galaxy, or a new solar system – it doesn’t really matter).  For the sake of discussion, lets say that the God would eventually find the correct concoction to create a universe that had the properties they desired and they would mark that concoction as being ‘Good’, just as the human marked the formula resulting in a blue fluid as ‘Good’.  The “lack of insight” that I discuss is precisely the fact that (1) it’s not known if there are any ‘higher beings’ at all, and (2) if there are any ‘higher beings’, then what are their goals (and are humans even a consideration in their goals, or just a byproduct of the experiment?!).  Perhaps the higher being’s goals were to create a universe with no organic life in it – in which case the existence of any humans at all would be ‘Bad’, and all human lives would be ‘Bad’ relative to the being’s goals.  Or perhaps the higher being’s goal was simply to create a solar system that could support life – in which case the existence of any humans at all would be ‘Good’, and all human lives would be ‘Good’ relative to the being’s goals.

I generally agree that humans can (and do, quite frequently) collectively make statements about another human’s life with regards to how ‘Good’ or ‘Bad’ a particular human’s life was.  These judgments of ‘Good’ or ‘Bad’, however (in my opinion), are (1) based on the humans’ approximated criteria of ‘Good’ and ‘Bad’ on a human life without any proven input from any ‘higher beings’, and (2) never 100% accurate due to lack of insight and due to the fact that a human cannot possibly view another human’s life in its entirety including all intents, actions, and net effects.


The primary conclusion of the discussions above is that: If no being exists whose perspective allows them to view a human life in its entirety as discussed, then a human life as a whole cannot be judged as ‘Good’ or ‘Bad’ by any meaningful measure.

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