The good

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Beginning of the treatise De Bono ("On the Good") Albert the Great , Cologne, Cathedral Library , Codex 1024, fol. 1r

In common parlance, the good is usually a vague designation for the epitome or the totality of that which is judged positively and is considered worth striving for. The focus is on the idea of what is ethically good, which is aimed at with good deeds.

In philosophy , the concept of the good has traditionally played an important role in both metaphysics and ethics. However, numerous modern philosophers dispute the philosophical relevance of statements in which something is described as good.

The good is given a metaphysical meaning in a multitude of models that ascribe ethical norms and thus an objective reality to the good. Such models trace moral demands back to a divine law or to an objective order of values. Accordingly, a person does not determine what is good at his own discretion, but he recognizes an objective fact when he assigns something to the area of ​​good. In these systems, the good is a reality that is naturally superior to the world of everyday experience and sets binding norms for it. In non-metaphysical ethical theories, on the other hand, the good is understood as a subjective positing of human beings and only related to their self-preservation and well-being. According to these theories, what is assessed as “good” results from human nature or is determined according to human needs.


The adjective “gut” is attested in the form guot in Old High German as early as the 8th century. Its meaning development led from the original basic meaning "suitable", "suitable" to "suitable", "valuable", "high quality" and related to persons "capable", "skillful", also indicating the social rank "respected", "distinguished" . In its ethical use it already meant “righteous”, “decent” in Old High German.

While the adjective "good" has a variety of meanings, the noun "das Gute" comes from the philosophical and theological terminology and is used in a more special sense, which is shaped by the technical origin of the term. Objects are referred to as “good” if they are of high quality and suitable for a specific purpose, or services if they meet certain requirements, or conditions and conditions if they are pleasant and enjoyable. A person is considered "good" if he has socially desirable qualities. “The good”, on the other hand, usually stands for a highest-ranking goal of human beings: for what is absolutely desirable and considered correct, which is to be achieved through appropriate actions. This is not about suitability that makes something useful appear good, but about the absolutely good as an end in itself . The good is striven for for its own sake. Opposite terms are evil , bad, and evil .

A “good” is something that represents a material or spiritual value: a useful object, a valued property ( virtue ) or ability, or a goal pursued. The goods are ranked according to the value assigned to them. At the top of the hierarchy of goods, in many metaphysical teachings, there is a “ highest good ” ( Latin summum bonum ), which contains everything else that is good. Such a supreme good is regarded as perfect and thus in every respect as good and therefore equated with the good in general. Monotheistic and henotheistic teachings identify God or a supreme deity with the good or highest good. In non-metaphysical value systems, pleasure , happiness or the exercise of virtue are determined as the highest good or belonging to the highest good.

The technical term "Gutheit" is often used in modern philosophical texts. This serves to delimit general language connotations of the term “goodness” (“kindness”, “friendly-indulgent attitude”), which are not included in the philosophical context.


Common usage

In the ancient Greek language , the adjective ἀγαθός agathós 'good' is used in common parlance to denote the fact that a person or thing is excellently suited for a task or a purpose. In Homer , for example, a warrior capable of fighting is agathos . The word describes a high quality that is appreciated and triggers a corresponding emotion. The word σπουδαῖος spoudaíos 'capable, excellent, excellent' is often used in the same sense as agathos . The substantiated neuter τὸ ἀγαθόν to agathón means both "the good" and "the good".

You can tell whether a person is good by their “work” (érgon) , that is, by the quality of their services or products. From the point of view of others, someone is good because he is doing something useful for them; the good is closely related to the useful. The quality of a person that enables him to be called good is his “ability” ( aretḗ ). Originally only the ideas of suitability, performance, success and usefulness were associated with agathos and arete , a moral quality was not necessarily one of them. It was only under the influence of philosophy that arete became a moral virtue and agathos received the special meaning "morally good", whereby the usefulness was retained as a connotation . The good was placed in a close connection with the beautiful, the combination of both in one person corresponded to the ideal of Kalokagathia (literally "beauty and goodness").

The Sophists , who in the second half of the 5th century BC BC emerged as a mediator of education, proceeded from the prevailing idea of ​​the good. They conceived it as that which is generally considered to be worth striving for and which gives satisfaction to those who obtain it. One usually thought of success, which shows in fame, power and fortune.

In the Latin language, the words bonus (“good”) and bonum (“the good”, also “the good”) were used analogously to the Greek words agathos and to agathon . Here, too, in the original and general usage of language it was about suitability, usefulness and efficiency, in philosophy especially about the moral good. The Roman thinkers adopted numerous concepts from Greek philosophers and modified them if necessary. Instead of the close connection between the good and the beautiful, which was expressed in the Greek ideal of Kalokagathia, the Romans initiated the connection between the good and the honorable (honestum) initiated by Cicero .


Socrates , who fought against sophistry, turned against the sophistication of the sophists, according to which the good has no objective content but is only determined by subjective goals and social norms. Instead, he called for a general definition of the term to be found; he asked what is good in and of itself. However, he did not claim to have found a fully satisfactory, incontestable philosophical definition himself, but only presented the partial results that his search had produced. Since he left no writings, his opinion is not exactly known. The views of historical Socrates can only be inferred indirectly from the sources, especially from the fictional, literary dialogues of his pupil Plato . The "Platonic Socrates" appearing there as a speaker is, however, only a literary figure whose relationship to the historical Socrates is unclear.


Approaches to definition

Plato, Roman copy of the Greek portrait of Plato by Silanion , Glyptothek Munich

The systematic examination of the question of the good in western philosophy begins with Plato. He studied her in depth. However, understanding his position is hampered by the fact that he did not write textbooks. As the author of dialogues, he allowed the interviewees to represent different points of view and deliberately refrained from presenting his own doctrine and labeling it as such. He left the conclusion to the reader. Nevertheless, the dialogues indirectly reveal how he thought about the good. As far as human action is concerned, he understood it to be morally good, but did not differentiate this from the beneficial and from the agent's own increase in happiness, as modern moral-philosophical approaches do. He was not familiar with a duty ethic that judges actions regardless of their consequences.

In the dialogues, the interlocutors discuss various provisions of the good. On several occasions they deal with the opinion, which was apparently widespread at the time, that the good consists in pleasure. This provision is rejected as contradicting itself as no one denies that there are also bad lusts. The good cannot be defined as insight either, because this can only mean an insight related to itself, which makes the definition circular.

The approaches found to be sensible in the dialogues are partly relational in that they determine the good according to its relationship to the person who strives for it, partly they start from objective characteristics that are assigned to the good. Plato relationally defined the good as that which leads to eudaimonia . By eudaimonia he understood a good, successful lifestyle and the associated state of mind. The term is usually imprecisely translated as "happiness" or "bliss"; but it is not a question of a feeling. It was a matter of course for Plato that every person wants to realize eudaimonia in his life. He emphasized that every soul strives for good, albeit often in the wrong way out of ignorance. While one is often content with mere appearance in the case of individual goods such as the just or the beautiful, the good is always desired as such; no one can satisfy an apparent good.

The non-relational determination of the good plays a central role in Plato's philosophy. According to his understanding, the good must be perfect, it must not have any defects, otherwise it would not be good at least in a certain respect. Accordingly, the absolutely good cannot be found in the necessarily imperfect formations of the world of the senses, but only in a different, naturally perfect realm. This is the world of "Platonic Ideas ", which Plato's theory of ideas is about. The good in its perfection - in contrast to individual goods and manifestations of the good - is the idea of ​​the good. The doctrine of ideas says that the sensually perceptible world is subordinate to the only mentally accessible ( intelligible ) area of ​​ideas. The ideas are real, independently existing, unchangeable archetypes, the sense objects their images. The existence and quality of the images can be traced back to the archetypes. The timeless being of ideas is being in the proper sense. The changeable and ephemeral sense objects, on the other hand, only have a conditional and therefore imperfect being, which they owe to the ideas. Their properties reflect the essence of ideas; for example, the idea of ​​the righteous is depicted in a righteous person, the idea of ​​the beautiful in a beautiful body. Thus, a person is (relatively) good if and as long as the idea of ​​good is reflected in him. Everything that is good owes this quality to the idea of ​​the good, in which it “participates” to a greater or lesser extent (“ Methexis doctrine”).

Plato made more detailed explanations about his non-relational definition of the good in his public lecture On the Good , the text of which has not survived; There is only sparse information about the content. After the presentation of Aristotle , Plato argued mathematically and astronomically in the lecture and determined the good as " one " (hen) ; the opposite of the unity of this one was for him the “indefinite duality” (aóristos dyás) .

For Plato, one of the characteristics of the good is its function to create order. The idea of ​​the good is the absolute principle of order, which structures the multiplicity and thus - as far as possible - realizes unity in the multiplicity. It counteracts the tendency of the many individual things to be dispersed into the boundless and indefinite. The order (táxis) and well-being of phenomena shows their goodness, which is conveyed to them by the ideas involved. The inner order of things is the cause of their suitability or excellence as well as the harmony that can be perceived in them. In dialogue Philebus , which is about the good of the people is the "mixed" life take their proper place in the reason and desire, determined as the good life. The degree (symmetría) is the factor that primarily determines whether a mixture is good. This is related to the beauty aspect of the good; In the dialogue Timaeus it is stated that all that is good is beautiful and that the beautiful cannot be without measure.

Ontological classification

Compared to the other ideas, the idea of ​​the good has a special position. Ontologically it is superior to all of them, that is, it has the highest rank in the hierarchy of things that are. Just as ideas give sense objects their being, the idea of ​​the good gives all other ideas their being. Only by participating in it are the other ideas good and therefore valuable. Thus the idea of ​​good is the highest principle and the cause of the being and goodness of everything.

The question of whether for Plato the idea of ​​the good together with the other ideas constitutes the realm of true being or if it is superordinate to this realm, i.e. “transcendent to being”, is very controversial in research. The research controversies mainly revolve around a passage in Plato's interpretation of his allegory of the sun , where it is stated that the good is "not the Ousia ", but "beyond the Ousia" and surpasses it in originality and power. The term Ousia (literally “beingness”) is usually translated as “being” or “being”; both meanings occur in Plato. What is disputed is what meaning is present here and whether “beyond the Ousia” is to be understood in the sense of an absolute transcendence .

According to the interpretation of a number of influential historians of philosophy, it is asserted here that the idea of ​​the good is superior to the immutable and perfect being of purely spiritual reality, i.e. transcendent in relation to this perfect being. According to this view, the idea of ​​the good differs in principle from all other ideas in that it confers other being, but does not itself belong to the realm of being, but exceeds it. Since it is the ground of all other ideas, the realm to which these ideas belong owes its existence to it. As the cause of this entire area, it cannot belong to it itself, but has to be located ontologically above it; it is “overseeing”.

Some researchers conclude from this that the good addressed in the allegory of the sun is to be equated - as the ancient Neoplatonists already thought - with the “ one ” that is dealt with in Plato's dialogue Parmenides and is the absolute principle that transcends being in Neoplatonism.

According to the contrary opinion, although Plato sharply demarcated the idea of ​​the good from the other ideas and assigned it a unique priority, he located it within the realm of the timeless being of ideas. Accordingly, it is not a question of "being overseas", but only of a particular being that differs from the being of other ideas. In favor of this interpretation, a number of statements by Plato can be cited, which show that he - at least from a certain point of view - considered it legitimate to classify the good in the realm of being. For example, he called it “the most blessed of all beings” and “the most brilliant of all beings”.

Rafael Ferber believes that there is a contradiction intended by Plato between the assertion of the transcendence of being in the allegory of the sun and the passages in which the good is understood as being, which is intended to show the reader that the idea of ​​the good cannot be represented in language without contradictions. Since this idea also transcends thinking, this becomes an inevitable paradox . Theodor Ebert, on the other hand, deduces from the structure of the sun parable that the idea of ​​the good is just as accessible to thought as the sun to sight. Thus Plato did not consider them transcendent of thought. Nor did he ascribe any transcendence of being to it, because the Ousia from which he distinguishes it only refers to the essence of the objects of knowledge, not being.

Gerhard Seel represents an interpretation of Plato's understanding of the good, according to which only something that consists of relations can be called "good" and only insofar as it consists of relations. According to Seel's hypothesis, the idea of ​​the good is not transcendent of being. It is the idea of ​​the logical principles by which the intelligible world is structured.

The realization of the idea of ​​the good

The central position of the idea of ​​the good in the theory of ideas also has consequences for Plato's epistemology . According to this, all human knowledge only becomes useful and beneficial when a correct reference is made to the idea of ​​the good. Only this reference enables real knowledge that is not based on untested assumptions, but on the knowledge of the true cause of all the things to which it relates. For example, the idea of ​​the good gives function and purpose to all virtues . Therefore, one can only fully understand a virtue and consequently maintain it if one knows how good it is.

From this it follows that the knowledge of the idea of ​​the good must be the real goal of the philosophical striving for knowledge. However, Plato emphasized that such insight was difficult to achieve; the way to her is long and arduous. It is about the “greatest lesson”, the “most to be learned(mégiston máthēma) . The Platonic Socrates does not claim that he himself has already achieved the goal. He emphasizes his ignorance and presents his view of the good as a mere opinion.

Despite the extraordinary difficulty of this task, Plato assumed that the idea of ​​the good could be recognized in principle. He said that a philosopher could “arrive” with her and thus achieve the ultimate goal of the philosophical search. Those who succeed in doing this will gain access to comprehensive knowledge that will qualify them for a leadership role in the state. The arrival at the idea of ​​the good was taken by Plato as a process of knowledge, but he described this act of knowledge metaphorically with expressions that he took from the realm of sensory perception (touching, seeing, beholding, looking). With this he indicated that what is meant is not a conceptual-discursive opening up, but a direct encounter with a reality beyond inferential thinking. Discursive thinking, however, is not devalued. It must be trained, because its performance is also an indispensable prerequisite for recognizing what is in itself good. It is needed not only in the preparation of the "show", but also after it in the understanding of the causal function of the good for the world order.

Christina Schefer points out that knowledge that relates to what is good in itself cannot be knowledge in the normal sense if the good is equated with the one. According to Plato's own understanding, knowledge must be justifiable and justification would mean tracing back to something superordinate. This is impossible with the supreme principle. Schefer concludes from this that “knowing” about the good can only be intuitive, it must be based on experience that cannot be objectified. An intuitive experience can neither be right nor wrong, it can neither be justified nor communicated. Therefore Schefer speaks of Plato's "unspeakable experience" and compares it with the religious experience in the mysteries .

Plato emphasized that the prerequisites for seeing the absolutely good do not only include the correct activity of thinking. According to his conviction, it is not just about an achievement of the intellect, but the whole soul must be "turned around" and directed towards the good. For the philosopher who wants to achieve the goal, in addition to the intellectual qualification, an ethical qualification is necessary.

It is controversial in research whether Plato not only theoretically postulated the recognizability of the good in itself, but also worked out a doctrine of the good, the content of which he regarded as certain knowledge. Some proponents of the hypothesis of an unwritten teaching of Plato answer this question in the affirmative. They believe that he did not put his opinion in writing, but only presented it orally in his school, the academy , and presented it to the public as an exception in the lecture on the good . Other researchers deny the existence of an unwritten doctrine or believe that it has remained unfinished; Plato did not achieve his goal of defining the good in a philosophically satisfactory manner, or even had to recognize that it was fundamentally unattainable.


The view, which Plato opposed, that the good consists in pleasure, was evidently already widespread in hedonistic circles in his day . The Cyrenaics , the adherents of a philosophical trend, believed to be the founder of Aristippus of Cyrene . The Cyrenean philosophy was probably first worked out in detail by Aristippus' grandson Aristippus the Younger . The Cyrenaists only considered individual feelings to be recognizable. By “sensations” they meant the consequences of the effects of external objects and processes on the body. The effects trigger physical reactions, which the person concerned perceives through his or her senses and registers as pleasant or unpleasant sensations. According to the Cyrenean epistemology, the causes of the sensations are fundamentally beyond human knowledge and are therefore not relevant for humans. From this it followed for these philosophers that there can be no other criterion in ethics than the quality of sensation. Therefore they equated the good with the pleasant or pleasurable sensations, the bad with the unpleasant or painful. They justified this with the fact that it corresponds to the nature of all living beings to strive for pleasure and to reject pain. This is how man behaves spontaneously from childhood. By “pleasure” they understood primarily or even exclusively physical pleasure sensations. They did not undertake a moral assessment of different desires. They put pleasure above eudaimonia, since eudaimonia encompasses the whole of life, while the sensation of pleasure only ever affects the present. According to the Cyrenean doctrine, only the present exists, since the past is no more and the future is not yet. So nothing is relevant to man except the present sensation.


Aristotle, bust in the Palazzo Altemps , Rome

Aristotle rejected Plato's doctrine of ideas and with it the idea that there is a unified, ontologically independent idea of ​​the good that underlies all manifestations of the good as their cause. He emphasized the ambiguity of the word “good”, which is used in different categories : both a substance and a quality, a quantity, a relation, a time and a place can be described as “good”. From this it can be seen that there can be no overarching, general and at the same time uniform idea of ​​the good. In addition, an absolute good is meaningless in practice; every working person wants to produce his special good, and knowledge about “the good itself” is useless for him.

Aristotle stated that all action is directed towards a good. Hence, the good (or the good) should be defined as that to which everything strives. In every action, in every decision, in every practical ability, the good is that for the sake of which everything else is undertaken, for example in the art of healing health, in the art of generals the victory, in the art of building the house. With this, Aristotle decided on a purely relational determination of the good as a human goal. He distinguished between different kinds of goals and established a ranking of the goods sought. He is convinced that this hierarchy cannot be open to the top, since otherwise there is an infinite regress , whereby the progress towards ever higher goals becomes endless and thus “empty and meaningless”. So there must be a supreme good as the ultimate goal. The highest good is the only one that is always and exclusively strived for for its own sake. The knowledge of this good is of crucial importance for the conduct of life. Aristotle supported the view of "almost everyone" that the highest good is eudaimonia. It is achieved when a person achieves the performance that is characteristic of him due to his human nature. This happens when he acts according to reason, and not just temporarily but for the rest of his life. For the philosopher this means scientific activity which leads to the knowledge and contemplation of the truth. Aristotle saw this as the absolute best way of life. Second best he considered a virtuous life as a politician. In addition, external goods (such as friends) are also required for eudaimonia.


Epicurus and the Epicureans assumed, like the Cyrenaics, that good and evil are not objective things, but pure states of consciousness that depend on the subjective feeling of the respective individual. Accordingly, everyone sets their own values ​​and decides what is good or bad for them. There is no such thing as a moral world order. The pleasure to which all living beings are from birth - that is, by nature - is the highest good, because it is the only end in itself, for the sake of which everything happens. Epicurus always means sensual pleasure. In contrast to previous hedonists, he equated the greatest possible pleasure with the absence of all displeasure.


The Stoics regard the good as an objective fact, with which they tie in with the Platonic doctrine. Nature (phýsis) provides them with the measure of goodness or badness . As a total nature that shows itself in the order of the cosmos, it is perfect from a stoic point of view. All natural things and events are harmoniously related to one another and are meaningfully embedded in the good world as a whole. So they are good. Viewed individually, however, they can have defects and must then be described as contrary to nature and bad in this regard. In so far as they realize what their particular nature dictates, they are not only good in the context of the world as a whole, but also for themselves.

With regard to man, according to the Stoic doctrine, what contributes to eudaimonia is good. In agreement with Aristotle, the Stoics believe that good is realized when the rational being behaves as such according to its nature and is perfected in it. This happens when the person lives virtuously. Then his life was successful and eudaimonia was given. Only virtues contribute to it. Anything beneficial that is not inherently virtuous, such as wealth, health, and beauty, is irrelevant to eudaimonia. Such amenities are therefore not goods from a stoic point of view. The good has no gradations, it is a state of perfection and as such is not gradual, but only either given or not.


The ancient skeptics turned against all "dogmatic" doctrines, the representatives of which claim that their arguments can prove the correctness of judgments. The skeptical position states that such arguments cannot regularly be proven to be imperative and one should therefore abstain from judgment. This also applies to all attempts to prove the existence of something objectively good or to determine something as inherently good. Therefore, for all statements according to which something is good or simply good, the claim to assured objective validity must be rejected. Value judgments are not only objectively unjustified, but they also lead to disturbances of the peace of mind, thus cause an evil and are therefore an evil themselves.

Middle Platonists

The Middle Platonists used to equate the supreme principle with the idea of ​​the good. This principle was the first and supreme deity for them. Some of them also identified the supreme deity with the creator of the world, the demiurge . Numenios was of a different opinion ; He distinguished between the supreme, absolutely transcendent deity, which is good in itself and has no direct relationship to material things, and the creator god subordinate to it.


Plotinus, the founder of Neoplatonism , rejected the equation of the nous (world reason) with the supreme principle, the absolutely undifferentiated, overriding One, which was widespread among the Middle Platonists and the New Pythagoreans . In his system the nous, the ontological place of the Platonic ideas, is a hypostasis (level of reality) subordinate to the One . According to Plotinus, the One, when viewed in and for itself, cannot be described as something specific, since it is absolutely transcendent and thus withdrawn from any positive determination. From this point of view, the statement that the one is the good is also inadmissible. From the perspective of the thinking person, on the other hand, the one appears as something higher and therefore good. Seen from this perspective, it can therefore be described as “good”. In contrast to the one who overshoots, which only appears to be good for what is below it, according to Plotin’s theory the nous is good in and of itself, because it shows the highest degree of perfection that can be inherent in a being.

From the point of view of Plotinus and the later Neoplatonists, goodness and badness are not two opposing qualities that a thing can exhibit, but everything that is is necessarily good as such. This results from the hierarchical structure and the unified nature of the entire reality in the monistic world view of Neoplatonism. Everything lower is a product of something higher, according to whose model it is shaped and in whose properties it shares, as far as its conditions of existence permit. Ultimately, everything can be traced back to the one, the first and highest principle. From the perspective of everything that has emerged from it and is ontologically subordinate to it, the one is the highest and absolutely the good. Since the origin of everything is thus perfect and uniform, “the bad” cannot be understood as a being that has emerged from this absolutely good source. Therefore the bad cannot have an independent existence. Rather, badness is nothing but a defect; it consists only in the lack of goodness. Therefore there is nothing to which “badness” can be assigned as a real quality.

Plotinus saw the reason for the creation of the world in the goodness of the One. The good could not "stay with itself", "as it were, scarce with itself or out of weakness". Therefore something should have come out of it. The good could not be good if it did not convey something of itself to another.

The late antique Neo-Platonist Proklos distinguished three forms of the good: the good in man, the good as a platonic idea and the absolutely transcendent good, which he equated with the one and called the "first god". The absolutely transcendent good is beyond everything that can be thought, recognized and said, but one can approach it by looking at three manifestations of one's self-development: beauty, symmetry and truth. The good as the one is overshadowing, it excludes all forms of being, as is emphasized in Proclus' commentary on Plato's dialogue Politeia . The idea of ​​the good, on the other hand, is the existing good, to which the other ideas owe that they can be and work. Proclus opposed equating the idea of ​​the good with the demiurge; he believed that the demiurge was subordinate to this idea. He attached importance to the statement that this does not mean a devaluation of the goodness of the demiurge, because he is the best in terms of his special function as creator. Accordingly, the demiurge achieves the maximum of the good possible with regard to this function.

Church fathers

The Church Fathers were influenced by Stoic and Platonic ideas as well as by the philosophy and theology of the Jewish thinker Philo of Alexandria . On the one hand, Philo regarded God as the highest and most perfect good and as the cause of all good that humans encounter, on the other hand he also expressed the opinion that God is still above good.

The Fathers of the Church saw the realization of good in human life in the alignment of the will towards God, which is shown in the fact that the Christian strives for eternal life in heaven , which for him represents the highest good. They equated the good in and of itself with God. However, they were also influenced by the Platonic skepticism regarding the justification of positive statements about the highest principle. This approach (" negative theology ") was already well received by theologians of the early patristic era . Clement of Alexandria said that God's nature cannot be grasped in thought and therefore cannot be expressed in words. He is inaccessible and ineffable, shapeless and nameless. Therefore, terms like “the good” are only helpful to a limited extent and not really applicable to God. The provisions which are ascribed to God are only justified in the sense of analogies to what is known; they could not convey real knowledge. In the context of the limitations to which human cognitive endeavors are subject, they should be accorded a certain value.

The very influential church father Augustine († 430) resorted to Neoplatonic ideas in his remarks about the good and its lack. His concern was to solve the problem of theodicy , the appearance of evil in the creation of an absolutely good God. He assumed that everything created by God is good, without exception, so he shared the Neoplatonist belief that only good can be described as being, and explained every evil as a mere defect or defect. Accordingly, evil is nothing but a diminution or partial absence of good, a disturbance of the good world order with limited effects. According to Augustine, the goodness of God is the reason for the creation of the world. The church father referred to Plato, who had expressed this idea in his dialogue with Timaeus .

An unknown late antique author who called himself Dionysius and was identified in the Middle Ages with Dionysius Areopagita , a disciple of the Apostle Paul mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles , worked out a detailed concept of statements about God that had a very strong aftermath. This author, known as the Pseudo-Dionysius Areopagita , discussed the differences between positive ("cataphatic") and negative ("apophatic") theology. Positive theology deduces from the goodness of what was created by God that something corresponding must be present in God as the cause of what was created. Since the Creator has given the created goodness, he must possess it himself. Negative theology, on the other hand, states that no designation can really apply to God, since no positive statement about him does justice to his transcendence. Therefore all words and names up to the highest-ranking concepts like goodness should be rejected as statements about God. Pseudo-Dionysius granted both approaches limited authorization. He found a way out by turning to "over-statements" with the prefix über- , for example "over-thinking" or "over good". Ultimately, however, he saw the over-statements only as an aid and not as statements of fact about the nature of God.

middle Ages

Medieval theologians and philosophers started their discussion of the issue of the good from the assumptions and questions of their ancient predecessors. The authority of the Church Fathers remained an important factor throughout the Middle Ages. In scholastic theology and philosophy, however, new approaches were also found and discussed.


Representation of Eriugenas in the manuscript Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, Lat. 6734

In the 9th century, the Irish scholar Johannes Scottus Eriugena developed a philosophical-theological system that was strongly influenced by Neoplatonism and Pseudo-Dionysius, which he presented in his main work, the text Periphyseon ("About Natures"). There he dealt with the problems of positive and negative theology and examined the question of the validity of statements about God.

According to Eriugena's conviction, terms that are used in the Bible to characterize God can only be understood literally in statements about perceptible reality. In statements about God their meaning is always transferred. Therefore, goodness can only be predicated of him in the figurative sense (translative) . He is the cause of the existence of the quality of goodness in the things he creates. Since he has given them this quality, it is also to be attributed to him. From this point of view, the statement “God is good” is legitimate. But in a second step it is denied in the sense of negative theology. This leads to the statement "God is not good". This means that the quality “good” does not apply to him in the sense in which this term is used to describe something created. It does not mark his being in the same way as it marks the being of what he has caused. In the third step, you return to the positive statement by expanding it and thus removing the offense: “God is more than good”. Since the “more than” is not specified, the sentence establishes a certain ignorance. God is not in the real sense (proprie) goodness, because goodness means the negation of its opposite, but God is beyond all opposites and thus also the opposition of good and evil.

In the realm of creation, for Eriugena, both the goodness and the being of all things are based on the goodness of the Creator, in which things participate directly or indirectly. Among the reasons of origin (primordiales causae) of created things, goodness (bonitas) comes first. Everything that is is such only insofar as it is good; goodness does not presuppose being, but causes it and is thus superior to it.

Christian concepts in the high and late middle ages

In the High and Late Middle Ages , the good was on the one hand thematized under the aspect of the identification of God with the absolutely good or the highest good, on the other hand it was examined as a moral good in human actions. At the same time the question arose as to the relation of the limited creature good to the perfect divine good. From an ethical point of view, it was particularly a matter of determining what makes morally good behavior good. Scholastic theologians and philosophers tried to clarify under what conditions an action can be described as good and what role the distinction between different types of goodness plays in this.

The idea, stemming from the tradition of Platonism , that it is part of the nature of the good to communicate, to pour out and to flow away, found a lot of approval . The principle that the good is self-emitting (bonum est diffusivum sui) belonged to the doctrines of high and late medieval theologians. He played an important role especially with Bonaventura . Bonaventura believed that the goodness of the Creator had not only induced him to create as a self-communication, but that the emanation should also be understood as the inner self-development of the deity.

The high medieval notions of the absolutely good are based primarily on the ideas of late antique authorities such as Augustine and Pseudo-Dionysius, who took up Neoplatonic concepts and used them for Christian purposes. In the 11th century Anselm of Canterbury , whose theology is shaped by the Augustinian tradition, formulated a proof of God in his work Monologion , for which he started from considerations about good and goods. The starting point is the assumption, which has been common since ancient times, that everyone strives for what they think is good. There are innumerable different kinds of goods that are valued and found good by different people. Hence the question arises whether there is a single common reason for claiming goodness for these many goods, or whether a variety of reasons do so. Anselm thought he could refute the latter. According to his argumentation, a comparative statement can only be made about different things (for example, that they have the property goodness in common) if what is said is understood as the same in all of them. Any comparability presupposes a common ground for comparison as a principle of order. Thus, things can only be good if there is something they have in common that makes them good. This common ground must be something different from what things themselves are, and, in contrast to them, it must be good by itself, since it only gives goodness and does not receive it. So it is supreme in terms of goodness. From this Anselm concluded that there must be the highest good (God).

In the 13th century great works were created that specifically deal with the good. Philip the Chancellor († 1236) wrote an extensive Summa de bono ( " sum over good") in which he was the first medieval author a systematic exposition of his theology from the perspective of the good that he used as an organizing principle, bot. He was followed by the famous scholar Albert the Great († 1280) with his work De bono (“About the Good”), also written as a “sum” , in which he treated the good from both an ontological and a moral point of view. The main work of Ulrich of Strasbourg († 1277), a pupil of Albert the Great, is entitled De summo bono (“On the highest good”); As a textbook, it should systematically present Albert's theological and philosophical ideas.

In the scholastic philosophy of the 13th century the doctrine of the later so-called transcendentalies was developed . According to medieval understanding, these are the "most common" (communissima) terms that, in contrast to "categorical" terms, can be stated not only in one category but in each - i.e. of everything - and cannot be traced back to anything earlier . A transcendentality in this sense is next to “being”, “one” and “true” also “good”. Taking up Aristotle's definition, Thomas Aquinas († 1274) determined the good as the conformity (convenientia) of beings with striving and established the principle that everything, insofar as it is, is good; According to this doctrine, “good” and “being” are interchangeable (convertuntur) . The bad does not belong to reality, it only consists in its impairment. Thomas only represented this principle in ontology with regard to beings as such. In ethics he ascribed a reality to moral evil, even if only as a mental fact, not in the sense of an extra-mental existence and a nature of its own.

On the question of what constitutes the goodness of morally good behavior, the opinions of medieval thinkers diverged. In the 12th century, the philosopher Petrus Abelardus put forward the principle that only intention is important. He said that the goodness depends solely on the goal of the will, the external result of the action played no role in the evaluation. An effect achieved by the act is not good in and of itself, but only because the intention of the agent corresponds to the will of God. The majority of medieval scholars did not share this view, however, but assigned the external act a morally relevant goodness, which it exhibits by itself. A distinction was made between the "good of the kind" (bonum in genere) , which occurs in actions that are good in their type (e.g. acts of charity), and the "good due to circumstances" (bonum ex circumstantia) . The circumstances include the agent's intentions and the main and side effects of his act. For example, giving alms is good in nature, but circumstances can make it bad if it is done for a reprehensible motive (such as vanity). Conversely, an act that is actually bad according to its type can be ethically justified by the circumstances and therefore good due to the circumstances, for example if it avoids a greater evil. The weighing up in the individual case is incumbent on human reason. Authors such as Philip the Chancellor, Albert the Great and Thomas Aquinas dealt in detail with such questions of classification and evaluation.

Thomas Aquinas determined bliss (beatitudo) as the highest good for humans , because it is the attainment or enjoyment of God, the absolutely good. Man can gain insight into the good from the order of creation.

In the late Middle Ages, nominalist thinkers like Nikolaus von Autrecourt contested the objective recognizability of the good by means of sheer reason . In such ethical concepts, the good cannot be determined as such on the basis of its own nature, but can only be derived from the divine commandment. This gives rise to the voluntaristic conclusion that something is not objectively morally good in and of itself, but only because and as long as it is willed by God. This view has already been hinted at by Wilhelm von Ockham , but he did not consistently represent it. The concise formulation comes from the nominalist Gabriel Biel († 1495): "God does not want something because it is right or just, but because God wants it, it is right or just."


In the late 12th century, the Jewish philosopher Maimonides dealt with the determination of the good in his main work, Guide to the Indecisive . He turned against the derivation of the terms “good” and “bad” from reason. According to his understanding, the task of the intellect is only to ascertain truth and untruth; reason makes no statements about the good. The knowledge of the good is not obtained through inferences; rather, such knowledge is based only on the divine commandments , even though their purposes are partly rational. The distinction between good and bad is limited to the area of ​​value judgments into which man first came through the fall of man . In his original, perfect state, man did not know and needed this distinction; at that time he was guided only by reason. This is how Maimonides interpreted the paradise tale in the book of Genesis , according to which Adam and Eve ate the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, which resulted in their expulsion from paradise. Maimonides defined the good deeds as those that keep the middle between two reprehensible extremes, one too much and one too little, and are evenly tempered.

Early modern age

In early modern philosophy the dominant view was that there is no inherently objective good, but that the criterion “good” is derived from subjective statements. The ontological foundation of ethics was abandoned. Accordingly, “good” is a relative term and it only makes sense to use it when referring to a person's pursuit or well-being and related value judgments. The primary pursuit of man aims at self-preservation. A consistent representative of this position was Hobbes . Spinoza too emphasized the relativity of the good; He meant that man does not strive for something because he thinks it is good, but that he thinks it is good because he strives for it. Hobbes and Spinoza also found that striving could start from erroneous assumptions and was then only apparently good; What is really good is a striving determined by reasonable insight that serves the actual well-being of the striving person. In this sense, Spinoza defined the good as that which we know for sure will be useful to us. Harmful, self-sustaining affects such as hatred and actions caused by them can therefore never be good. For Spinoza the highest good is the philosophical knowledge of God.

Leibniz represented a different idea of ​​the good . He viewed the existing world as the best possible and thus determined the real as the good, in contrast to all other theoretically possible worlds that would be worse.

John Locke assumed that there is no objective criterion for assessing the quality of goods. Man's behavior is determined by his pursuit of happiness; For him goods are the things that bring him happiness. A good that can bring him “true” happiness (as intense and lasting as possible) is more desirable than one that allows only a limited, temporary feeling of pleasure. Therefore, the eternal bliss promised to Christians should be recognized and striven for as the highest good. Locke, however, rejected the idea that there is a natural pursuit of this highest good in the human soul. He said that the human will of itself always aims at the attainment of the closest good and the current avoidance of displeasure. The understanding can show, however, that it is in the interests of man to give priority to the distant good beyond. Such a balance leads to the best decision for one's own well-being, through which God's goodwill is obtained.

Francis Hutcheson and David Hume believed that one can only experience what is morally good by feeling; reason does not contribute to this, since the turning towards the good is based on an emotional inclination and reasonable analysis cannot open the way to the good.

The Cambridge Platonists in the 17th century represented a countercurrent to the prevailing tendencies of the early modern period . They defended the existence of eternal moral truths that are naturally recognizable, and professed the concept of the metaphysical foundation of what is inherently objectively good. Their assumption that man is endowed with an innate tendency towards the good aroused Locke's contradiction.


In Rousseau's oeuvre , the natural goodness (bonté naturelle) of people is one of the main ideas. Rousseau assumed that man is born with a disposition for good, the root of which is his natural self-love. Because of his self-love, he strives for what is good for him from birth, that is, for self-preservation and optimal living conditions. As this endeavor is recognized and supported by the toddler's environment, the toddler includes the environment in his positive attitude towards himself and develops benevolence towards it. This is how natural social goodness comes about. Malicious properties, on the other hand, are contrary to nature. They are trained when the child's natural self-love encounters oppressive conditions. Then the child perceives the environment as hostile and thinks they have to defend themselves. This creates harmful behavior patterns that solidify. Self-love comes into opposition to the social environment and turns into selfishness. Thus all deviations from natural goodness have their causes in social conditions contrary to nature, which are the result of a historical mistake; the individual as such is innocent.

Kant emphasized that nothing was conceivable that could be regarded as good without reservation, except goodwill alone. The will is good only through willing, its suitability for achieving a purpose does not matter. In Kant's ethics, the motivation for good action is pure reason, from which the moral law can be derived, the binding nature of which man can accept in a free decision. An act is "good in itself" when it conforms to moral law. It is then performed out of duty, not out of inclination. The will, "whose maxim is always in accordance with this law, is absolutely, with all intent, good and the supreme condition of all good". Thus the concept of the good does not precede the moral law as its basis, but is derived from it. This is necessary because otherwise the good could only be determined on the basis of a feeling of pleasure, i.e. empirically, which would block the way to finding a practical law. Kant described virtue as the highest good “as the worthiness of being happy”, which, however, does not alone constitute the highest good; happiness is also required. It is a requirement of reason that a rational being, who is in need of and also worthy of happiness, should partake of it. Therefore, for Kant, virtue and happiness together constitute “the possession of the highest good in a person” and also “the highest good of a possible world”.

19th century


Hegel criticized Kant's moral philosophy because it presupposed an opposition between the right and the real, between morality and nature, created a gap between ought and being and led to an empty formalism. He rejected the abstract idea of ​​something good in itself, which has no reality in the world, and countered it with the thesis that good can be found in reality. For Hegel, the place of the good is not an ought opposed to being, but a being that forms a unity with ought. The good is not something that is supposed to be realized, because that would put it in opposition to another reality in which it is not realized. It does not consist in the individual will of a subject who opposes his rational moral demands to an unreasonable reality, but in the concrete reality of the general will of a moral community in which the individual is embedded.

Schopenhauer stated that the concept of the good is trivial; it only says that something is as the judge wants it.

Nietzsche directed his radical, fundamental criticism of morality and metaphysics particularly against the common notions of goodness that stem from the Platonic and Christian traditions. He considered the “good” person in the traditional sense to be decadent and a denier of life. Kant's conception of the good, "the good with the character of impersonality and general validity", was described by Nietzsche as a pipe dream that expresses "the decline, the final weakening of life". He opposed the conventional ideals of goodness with a position “ beyond good and evil ”. He defined what is good in his sense as that which promotes the striving for power: "Everything that increases the feeling of power, the will to power, the power itself in a person". Everything that comes from weakness is bad.

Some thinkers of the 19th century ( John Stuart Mill , Herbert Spencer , Henry Sidgwick ) given the good as the good fortune (happiness) , joy (pleasure) or pleasing (the pleasurable) . They called an action good if it contributed to happiness, by which they also meant the happiness of others. William James denied the existence of anything good in itself.

20th and 21st centuries

Analytical and Post-Analytical Philosophy

According to a broad consensus, the linguistic expression “good” is used differently, e.g. B. can be described as “good”, which is useful as a means to achieve certain purposes (“instrumental use”). In contrast, systematic ethics is classically interested only, or at least primarily, in what is specifically moral good - a term that is particularly applied to motives for action, life plans, actions, consequences of actions and the like. Many philosophers accept a distinction proposed by William David Ross between “morally good”, which relates to internal things (will and motives), and “morally correct”, which relates to external action. In addition, there is often talk of an “evaluative good”, that is, something worth striving for, and this relates to the concept of a “good life”. Often one relates to the consequences of action (“ consequentialistic ”) and the objective ought-oriented (“ deontological ”) ethics drafts to the morally correct and good and so-called virtue ethics or “ethics of striving” to the evaluative good.

Non-cognitivistic analyzes of the "good"

The analysis of the content and the conditions of use of moral concepts, especially the concept of the good, is a core topic of metaethics . The so-called cognitivistic positions differ fundamentally from the non-cognitivistic positions. Cognitivistic is the name given to analyzes which attribute a rationally reconstructable content to moral concepts. It is assumed that sentences which use such terms express beliefs that are true or false, justified or not assessable. Representatives of non-cognitivistic positions deny this and instead claim that there are simply no moral properties or facts to which terms such as “the good” could even refer. From a non-cognitivist point of view, statements that use moral terms cannot attempt to express beliefs that can be assessed as true or false (non-cognitivism with regard to moral terms).

Many early proponents of such non-cognitivism were influenced by an analysis published by George Edward Moore in 1903. His work Principia ethica deals with language and conceptual analysis with the predicate "... is good". He rejects both theories that assume that “good” is a natural property of things or actions and theories that equate “good” with sensations such as “happiness” or “satisfaction”. While he believes it is possible to define what is “good for (a specific purpose)”, Moore considers “good in itself” to be indefinable. “Good” is a simple term that cannot be defined either by synonyms or by combining several terms. Such attempts at definition were based on an error that Moore calls " naturalistic fallacy ". Statements in which something is described as good can neither be proven nor refuted and cannot contribute anything to a knowledge related to action situations. The effect of Moore's analysis was particularly large in the English-speaking world, especially up until the 1960s.

Numerous philosophers declare the assumption of a “good in itself” to be pointless and deny that the good is anchored in an objectively existing order of values. They claim that expressions like “good” and “the good” have no material content, they express nothing but subjective moral approval. Statements about goodness are not verifiable and not philosophically relevant. Some philosophers consider such judgments to be mere manifestations of subjective feelings ( emotivism ). The assessment, according to which an evaluation as “good” can only say something about the judging subject, but not about what has been evaluated, is represented u. a. Charles Kay Ogden , Ivor A. Richards , Moritz Schlick , Bertrand Russell , Alfred Jules Ayer and Charles Leslie Stevenson .

Virtue ethical interpretations of the good as a determination of the good life
The young GEM Anscombe

An early influential position on the situation of moral philosophy was presented by Elizabeth Anscombe in her essay Modern Moral Philosophy in 1958 . According to their diagnosis, the usual contemporary approaches to moral philosophy agree that they continue to use terms such as “morally good” and “moral ought”, but these only function with reference to a legislator who guarantees moral authority. However, such a concept fails because no concept of God is assessed any longer. The plausible alternative to a religiously based ethics is not to continue using concepts such as “morally good” in the sense of thin terms , but rather the development of a virtue ethics in the Aristotelian sense. According to the most widespread reading, Anscombe's presentation amounts to the latter, according to an alternative reading, on the other hand, it intended to revive a strict, deontological, religious- supranaturalist- based ethic. There is agreement, however, that Anscombe was influential in reinvigorating approaches to virtue ethics .

Also in 1958, Philippa Foot published her widely acclaimed article Moral Arguments , in which she argues against a moral-philosophical relativism and noncognitivism. Moral terms like “good”, she argues, followed generally accepted rules of use; the only alternative to accepting these norms is to forego moral vocabulary altogether. This usage implies that moral virtues are related to something that is good (beneficial) or harmful to a person . Why-questions related to such evaluations would have to come to an end where it would be pointless to ask why someone has certain preferences. In many more, u. a. Foot developed her variant of a neo-Aristotelian virtue ethic, which was well received in moral theology . Her work Natural Goodness concludes , in which she assumes that “patterns of natural normativity” result from a life cycle.

The Neo-Aristotelian (and Thomistic ) approach of Alasdair MacIntyre is one of the most influential attempts to provide virtue ethical answers to the question of “the good”, with the good being interpreted as “the good life” . His main moral-philosophical work, in which he elaborates this approach, is After Virtue (1981), but his monograph A Short History of Ethics from 1966 criticizes Moore's analysis in the final chapter (Modern Moral Philosophy) , according to which “good” cannot be analyzed. In order to use such terms in an understandable way, we would have to know the meaning at least through a standard example; besides, Moore could not explain why the fact that something is good constitutes a reason for action.

The writer and philosopher Iris Murdoch pleaded - u. a. in her 1970 treatise The Sovereignty of Good - for a connection to the Platonic conception of the good, the associated metaethical cognitivism, the ontological realism with regard to immaterial forms and also the models of action described by Plato, which require the elaboration of a suitable anthropology and moral psychology . Although her work often does not meet formal standards that have become established in the context of analytical philosophy , Murdoch was received by many analytically trained philosophers, including Hilary Putnam , who u. a. at Murdoch (and Stanley Cavell of otherwise) criticism in analytic epistemology and ontology by then widely accepted distinction between facts and values anknüpft, and Charles Taylor .

The more recent systematic virtue ethics takes concerns z. B. Murdoch's approach, which was inspired by Platonism, or the Neo-Aristotelianism of Foot, Martha Nussbaum , John McDowell or MacIntyre, and thus presents alternatives or additions to answers to the question of the good, as they are moral-philosophical approaches, especially from the most diverse families of theories of consequentialism or develop deontological normative ethics.

Consequentialist evaluations of the good

Consequentialist moral philosophies evaluate decisions, actions and motives for action according to which good or bad consequences they have. In doing so, they have to assume that certain facts that result from good decisions are intrinsically good. This intrinsically good is determined differently: Monistic consequentialists identify the good with well-being, the fulfillment of preferences or “happiness”, pluralistic theories refer to different points of view. The distribution of the good can also be included. The best-known variants of consequentialism are the classic formulations of utilitarianism by Jeremy Bentham , John Stuart Mill or Henry Sidgwick . In the systematic debates of the 20th and 21st centuries, a wide variety of further variants of utilitarian and other consequentialist answers to the question of the good were developed and defended. Well-known representatives are Richard M. Hare , Marcus Singer , Richard Booker Brandt , John Harsanyi , James O. Urmson , John Jamieson Carswell Smart , Peter Singer , Samuel Scheffler , Shelly Kagan , Brad Hooker , Philip Pettit , Michael Slote and Peter Railton .

Deontological perspectives on the good

In contrast to consequentialist conceptions, deontological moral theories determine the good by conforming to a moral norm that must be strictly followed. The formulation of a deontological position by Kant became groundbreaking for this direction. Even Samuel Clarke , Joseph Butler and Thomas Reid among the classics. More recent variants can be classified into one group that starts with the agent and his duties, another that takes the recipient of the actions and his rights as a starting point, and a third group that is based on contract theory models.

Many proponents of the opinion that the good cannot be derived from foregoing reasons, but can only be grasped in an original (rational) intuition (so-called intuitionism ), have advocated a deontological moral concept. These include Moore, Horace WB Joseph, Edgar F. Carrit, William David Ross , Harold Arthur Prichard , Henry Sidgwick , Hastings Rashdall , John ME McTaggart , CD Broad and Alfred Cyril Ewing . Current representatives include Robert Audi and Russ Shafer-Landau .

Continental philosophy

Opposing positions to non-cognitivism have also been formulated outside of Anglo-Saxon philosophy. Some Christian philosophers advocate the existence of a good in itself. This good is not only good in relation to a subject, but in itself. The good is also an ontological truth. Those who hold this view include Dietrich von Hildebrand and Josef Seifert . Albert Schweitzer in his work Culture and Ethics asks the question of a “most general concept of the good”. In a critical examination of the earlier approaches, which he considers to be “consistently fragmentary”, he comes to the conclusion: “It is good, life is preserved and life is promoted”. Everything that is considered good from an ethical point of view can be traced back to “the material and spiritual preservation or promotion of human life and the endeavor to bring it to its highest value”. However, Schweitzer regards not only human life as worthy of preservation and promotion, but life itself. He combines his concept of reverence for life with his definition of the good as the preservation and promotion of life by stating that the good consists “ultimately in the elementary reverence for the enigmatic that we call life”, namely “reverence before all its manifestations, the smallest as well as the largest ”.

Martin Buber regards the good as an anthropological reality and gives as its characteristic the “character of the direction”, a direction for which the human being can choose: “Direction towards the person I mean”, towards the “unrepeatable nature form “Of the individual, or direction towards God as the author of this uniqueness. The good understood in this way is not to be classified in any ethical coordinate system, but is above all systems, since they arose and existed for his sake.

The Marxist philosopher Ernst Bloch deals in his main work The Principle of Hope in detail with the history of the term “ highest good ” and assigns it a current meaning. He characterizes it as “the absolute fulfillment of needs” and the “realm of freedom” and defines it as the “ideal of purpose of human history”, the intended end goal that lies in a future “into which the unfulfilled momentary world continues to drive”. “The highest good is itself this not yet formed, ultimately meant in the tendency of the process, ultimately a real possible goal in the latency of the process.” Hans Jonas is critical of Bloch's classification of past and present as provisional and “not-yet-being.” “Apart in view of a hoped-for future. He considers it necessary to "free the bait of utopia" from the demand for goodness in order to follow it realistically and without excessive expectation. For Jonas, the good is inconspicuous, it usually only occurs in the detour via the "infinitely easier" recognizable, imposing bad in the consciousness.


The Chinese philosophers were primarily concerned with the question of whether what is good in people is natural or a product of civilization. The term ren ( Chinese   , W.-G. jen ), often translated as “goodness” or English “goodness”, means “humanity”, “humanity”, “philanthropy”. In Confucianism , it denotes a fundamental virtue. However, its content does not correspond to that of the broader term “goodness” in the sense of the European philosophical tradition; What is meant is socially appropriate, polite and benevolent behavior. Also (  /  ), usually translated as “righteousness” or “righteousness”, is not to be equated with “goodness”. The Chinese word for “goodness”, shàn ( ), denotes being good in the moral sense, but also in general “proficiency”, “suitability” without any ethical connotation. In philosophical discourse, shàn plays a role in discussing the question of whether innate human nature ( , xìng ) is inherently good or bad.

Confucius did not deal with this problem, but limited himself to establishing the unity of innate human nature. The best known proponent of the doctrine of the innate goodness of human nature ( 性善 , xìngshàn ) is the influential Confucian Mengzi (Mencius, 4th century BC). He taught that all people are naturally equally good at heart, which can be seen in the children's spontaneous behavior; Evil is based on deception, misguided desires and unfavorable living conditions. Therefore one only needs to look after and preserve the original. Mengzi viewed human goodness as an aspect of an overall good quality of world nature. For him, evil has no independent existence, it only consists in the loss of the originally present good. Mengzi's older contemporary, Gaozi, however, believed that human nature was originally ethically neutral; like water can flow in any direction, it can develop for good or for evil.

A radical opposing position to Mengzi's view took place in the 3rd century BC. Chr. Xunzi , who was also a Confucian. He said that man's innate nature is bad, that it is shaped by greed and envy, which leads to violence. One cannot change this nature, but can only counter it with something opposite by an act of will. The good must be artificially created through education, which means overcoming human nature. Nothing good in the ethical sense can be found in world nature; there is no benevolent heaven, the universe is indifferent to human needs. Xunzi saw the good as an achievement of the human being, which he produced contrary to his own nature and the nature of the cosmos by turning away from nature.

The doctrine of the natural wickedness of human nature found extreme expression in the school of legalism . Its spokesman, the philosopher Han Fei and the politician Li Si , were students of Xunzi, but turned away from Confucianism. According to the legalistic doctrine, humans do not do anything good on their own - apart from rare exceptions. So it is up to the state to keep him from doing bad. The innate human badness can only be curbed by drastic state threats of punishment. Ethical principles are ineffective in practice, only obedience to the law is important.

In ancient Confucianism, the word (  /  ) denoted traditional morality, the set of recognized ethical norms. In New Confucianism , which developed during the Song dynasty , the not to be confused term ( “principle of order”, “world order”) plays a central role. New Confucian thinkers understand this to be a fundamental cosmological principle. For the philosophical definition of this principle, the school direction founded by the very influential New Confucian Zhu Xi († 1200) became groundbreaking. Zhu Xi postulated an objective moral world order to which, in addition to its moral significance, he also ascribed an ontological and cosmological reality. According to his teaching, li is the unchangeable, form-giving order principle "above the level of design", which gives sensually perceptible things their being and shape and at the same time their goodness. Thus, in terms of its function and ontological status, this principle is comparable to the Platonic idea of ​​the good. Since li is good, its products, including human nature, are actually good too. Because of the imperfection of matter, however, the sensory world has imperfections to which evil and bad can be traced.


General overview presentations and introductions



  • Richard Kraut: Aristotle on the Human Good . Princeton University Press, Princeton 1989, ISBN 0-691-07349-X .


Web links

Wiktionary: Gutes  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations


  1. Wolfgang Pfeifer: Etymological Dictionary of German , Volume A – L , 2nd edition, Berlin 1993, p. 488f.
  2. The oldest documents are compiled by Rudolf Grosse (ed.): Old High German Dictionary , Vol. 4, Berlin 1986, Sp. 500–504.
  3. The Duden dictionary offers numerous examples of the meanings of “good”: Duden. The large dictionary of the German language in ten volumes , 3rd edition, Vol. 4, Mannheim 1999, pp. 1620f.
  4. ^ Robert Spaemann : Good, highest . In: Historical Dictionary of Philosophy , Volume 3, Basel 1974, Sp. 974–976.
  5. On the language used by Homer, see Pierre Chantraine : Dictionnaire étymologique de la langue grecque. Histoire des mots , Paris 2009, p. 5f.
  6. Hans Reiner: Good, the good, the good. I. In: Historical Dictionary of Philosophy , Volume 3, Basel 1974, Sp. 937-946, here: 937f.
  7. Examples in Wilhelm Pape : Greek-German Concise Dictionary , 3rd Edition, Volume 1, reprint Graz 1954, p. 6 and Henry George Liddell , Robert Scott : A Greek-English Lexicon , 9th edition, Oxford 1996, p. 4; for the history of the term see Hans Reiner: Gut, das Gute, das Gut. I. In: Historical Dictionary of Philosophy , Volume 3, Basel 1974, Sp. 937–946, here: 937–940.
  8. Hans Reiner: Good, the good, the good. I. In: Historical Dictionary of Philosophy , Volume 3, Basel 1974, Sp. 937–946, here: 945f.
  9. See on the position of Sokrates Klaus Döring : Sokrates, die Sokratiker and the traditions established by them . In: Hellmut Flashar (ed.): Sophistik, Sokrates, Sokratik, Mathematik, Medizin ( Outline of the history of philosophy . The philosophy of antiquity , Volume 2/1), Basel 1998, pp. 139–364, here: 158–166 ; Andreas Patzer : Socrates as a philosopher . In: Andreas Patzer (ed.): Der historical Sokrates, Darmstadt 1987, pp. 434–452, here: 448f. Cf. Michael Erler : Platon (= Hellmut Flashar (Hrsg.): Grundriss der Geschichte der Philosophie. Die Philosophie der Antike , Volume 2/2), Basel 2007, pp. 82–84, 340f.
  10. Christoph Horn : Moral Philosophy . In: Christoph Horn u. a. (Ed.): Platon-Handbuch , Stuttgart 2009, pp. 154–163, here: 156–158.
  11. Plato, The Republic 505b-c. For background, see Michael Erler: Platon (= Hellmut Flashar (ed.): Outline of the history of philosophy. The philosophy of antiquity , Volume 2/2), Basel 2007, pp. 436-438.
  12. Peter Stemmer : Virtue. I. Antiquity . In: Historical Dictionary of Philosophy , Volume 10, Basel 1998, Sp. 1532–1548, here: 1533; Friedemann Buddensiek : Eudaimonia . In: Christian Schäfer (Ed.): Platon-Lexikon , Darmstadt 2007, pp. 116–120.
  13. Plato, Politeia 505d-e.
  14. See Konrad Gaiser : Plato's enigmatic lecture 'On the Good' . In: Konrad Gaiser: Gesammelte Schriften , Sankt Augustin 2004, pp. 265–294, here: 265–274 and Michael Erler: Platon (= Hellmut Flashar (Hrsg.): Grundriss der Geschichte der Philosophie. Die Philosophie der Antike , Volume 2 / 2), Basel 2007, pp. 419–421. On the role of mathematics, see Rosemary Desjardins: Plato and the Good , Leiden 2004, pp. 119–127; Christopher Gill: The Good and Mathematics . In: Douglas Cairns u. a. (Ed.): Pursuing the Good. Ethics and Metaphysics in Plato's Republic , Edinburgh 2007, pp. 251-274; Elisabetta Cattanei: La matematica e il Bene. Alcune note see Platone, Repubblica, VI – VII . In: Giovanni Reale, Samuel Scolnicov (eds.): New Images of Plato , Sankt Augustin 2002, pp. 157-175.
  15. Jens Halfwassen : The rise to one. Investigations on Plato and Plotin , 2nd edition, Leipzig 2006, pp. 236–245; Christoph Quarch : Sein und Seele , Münster 1998, pp. 221f., 263–266.
  16. ^ Plato, Timaeus 87c.
  17. A summary of relevant statements by Plato is offered by Thomas Alexander Szlezák: The idea of ​​the good in Plato's Politeia , Sankt Augustin 2003, p. 111f.
  18. Greek presbeía " priority of age", also translated as "dignity".
  19. Plato, Politeia 509b.
  20. Michael Erler offers overviews of the extensive research literature : Platon (= Hellmut Flashar (ed.): Grundriss der Geschichte der Philosophie. Die Philosophie der Antike , Volume 2/2), Basel 2007, pp. 402–404 and Rafael Ferber: Ist the idea of ​​the good is not transcendent or is it? Again Plato's ΕΠΕΚΕΙΝΑ ΤΗΣ ΟΥΣΙΑΣ . In: Damir Barbarić (ed.): Plato about the good and justice , Würzburg 2005, pp. 149–174, here: 149–156.
  21. A summary of this position is offered by Thomas Alexander Szlezák: The idea of ​​the good in Plato's Politeia , Sankt Augustin 2003, p. 67f.
  22. To equate the one with the good, see Jens Halfwassen: The rise to one. Investigations on Plato and Plotinus , 2nd edition, Leipzig 2006, pp. 21–23 and p. 221, note 4; Thomas Alexander Szlezák: The idea of ​​the good in Plato's Politeia , Sankt Augustin 2003, p. 70f .; Hans Joachim Krämer : ἘΠΕΚΕΙΝΑ ΤΗΣ ΟΥΣΙΑΣ. Plato, Politeia 509 B . In: Archive for the history of philosophy 51, 1969, pp. 1–30; Hans Joachim Krämer: Arete in Platon and Aristoteles , Heidelberg 1959, pp. 138, 324, 456, 473–476, 548. Rafael Ferber argues against the equation: Plato's idea of ​​the good , 2nd edition, Sankt Augustin 1989, p. 76 -78.
  23. ^ Matthias Baltes : Is the Idea of ​​the Good in Plato's Republic Beyond Being? In: Matthias Baltes: Dianoemata. Small writings on Plato and Platonism , Stuttgart 1999, pp. 351–371; Karl-Wilhelm Welwei : Beyond Being? For οὐσία in Plato's sun allegory Politeia 509b . In: Karl-Wilhelm Welwei: Polis and Arché , Stuttgart 2000, pp. 306-310; Wilhelm Luther : Truth, light, seeing and knowing in the parable of the sun from Plato's Politeia. An excerpt from the light metaphysics of the Greeks . In: Studium Generale, Volume 18, Issue 7, 1965, pp. 479–496, here: 487f .; Luc Brisson : L'approche traditional de Platon par HF Cherniss . In: Giovanni Reale, Samuel Scolnicov (eds.): New Images of Plato , Sankt Augustin 2002, pp. 85–97; Andreas Graeser : “Beyond being”. Assumptions about the status and function of the idea of ​​the good . In: Freiburg Journal for Philosophy and Theology 28, 1981, pp. 70–77. Rafael Ferber defends the opposite position: Isn't the idea of ​​the good transcendent or is it? Again Plato's ΕΠΕΚΕΙΝΑ ΤΗΣ ΟΥΣΙΑΣ . In: Damir Barbarić (ed.): Plato on the good and justice , Würzburg 2005, pp. 149–174, here: 154–160.
  24. Plato, Politeia 518c and 526E. Thomas Alexander Szlezák argues against the evidential value of these passages as an argument against the transcendence of being: The idea of ​​the good in Plato's Politeia , Sankt Augustin 2003, p. 66.
  25. Rafael Ferber: Plato's idea of ​​the good , 2nd edition, Sankt Augustin 1989, pp. 149–154.
  26. ^ Theodor Ebert: Opinion and knowledge in Plato's philosophy , Berlin 1974, pp. 161–173. This interpretation of “beyond the Ousia” is also represented by Karl-Wilhelm Welwei: Beyond being? For οὐσία in Plato's sun allegory Politeia 509b . In: Karl-Wilhelm Welwei: Polis and Arché , Stuttgart 2000, pp. 306–310, here: 309.
  27. ^ Gerhard Seel: Is Plato's Conception of the Form of the Good Contradictory? In: Douglas Cairns u. a. (Ed.): Pursuing the Good. Ethics and Metaphysics in Plato's Republic , Edinburgh 2007, pp. 168–196, here: 184–195.
  28. Michael Bordt: Platon , Freiburg 1999, pp. 75-77.
  29. Plato, Politeia 504a-505b, 506a.
  30. Plato, Politeia 504e-505a; see. 503e-504a. See Jens Halfwassen: The Ascent to One. Investigations on Plato and Plotinus , 2nd edition, Leipzig 2006, pp. 226–236; Rafael Ferber: Plato's idea of ​​the good , 2nd edition, Sankt Augustin 1989, p. 49f .; Michael Erler: Platon (= Hellmut Flashar (ed.): Outline of the history of philosophy. The philosophy of antiquity , volume 2/2), Basel 2007, pp. 370–372.
  31. On Socrates' assessment of his own level of knowledge see Thomas Alexander Szlezák: The idea of ​​the good in Plato's Politeia , Sankt Augustin 2003, pp. 121–127.
  32. Thomas Alexander Szlezák: The idea of ​​the good in Plato's Politeia , Sankt Augustin 2003, pp. 80f., 83f., 97-101. Szlezák gives a brief overview of the research opinions on p. 97; the different approaches range from the hypothesis that the idea of ​​the good is fundamentally unrecognizable (Cornelia de Vogel) to the assumption that the only access to this idea is discursive ( Richard Robinson , Peter Stemmer ).
  33. Christina Schefer: Plato's unspeakable experience , Basel 2001, pp. 41–49.
  34. Thomas Alexander Szlezák: The idea of ​​the good in Plato's Politeia , Sankt Augustin 2003, p. 104.
  35. Research overviews are available from Michael Erler: Platon (= Hellmut Flashar (ed.): Grundriss der Geschichte der Philosophie. Die Philosophie der Antike , Volume 2/2), Basel 2007, pp. 406–429 and Thomas Alexander Szlezák: The Idea of ​​the Good in Platon's Politeia , Sankt Augustin 2003, pp. 135–146.
  36. Klaus Döring: Socrates, the Socratics and the traditions they founded . In: Hellmut Flashar (ed.): Sophistik, Sokrates, Sokratik, Mathematik, Medizin ( Outline of the history of philosophy. The philosophy of antiquity , Volume 2/1), Basel 1998, pp. 139–364, here: 250–255 .
  37. Malte Hossenfelder : Epikur , Munich 1991, pp. 40–42.
  38. Hellmut Flashar: Die Platonkritik (I 4) offers a presentation and investigation of Aristotle's argumentation . In: Otfried Höffe (Ed.): Aristoteles: Nikomachische Ethik , 2nd, edited edition, Berlin 2006, pp. 63–82.
  39. Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics 1096a – b.
  40. Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics 1096b – 1097a. See Rachel Barney: The Carpenter and the Good . In: Douglas Cairns u. a. (Ed.): Pursuing the Good. Ethics and Metaphysics in Plato's Republic , Edinburgh 2007, pp. 293-319.
  41. Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics 1094a.
  42. Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics 1097A.
  43. Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics 1094a, 1097a; see Franz Dirlmeier : Aristoteles: Nikomachische Ethik , Darmstadt 1956, pp. 267f.
  44. Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics 1095a.
  45. Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics 1097b – 1098a.
  46. Richard Kraut: Aristotle on the Human Good , Princeton 1989, pp. 5-7, 15-77.
  47. Malte Hossenfelder: Epikur , Munich 1991, pp. 51–75.
  48. Maximilian Forschner : Die stoische Ethik , 2nd edition, Darmstadt 1995, pp. 160–162.
  49. On the stoic conception of the good in human life see Maximilian Forschner: Die stoische Ethik , 2nd edition, Darmstadt 1995, pp. 165–182. See Hans Reiner: Good, the good, the good. I. In: Historical Dictionary of Philosophy , Volume 3, Basel 1974, Sp. 937–946, here: 944; Susan Sauvé Meyer: Ancient ethics. A critical introduction , London and New York 2008, pp. 141–151.
  50. On the skeptical position see Friedo Ricken : Antike Skeptiker , Munich 1994, pp. 140–151.
  51. ^ Matthias Baltes: Is the Idea of ​​the Good in Plato's Republic Beyond Being? In: Matthias Baltes: Dianoemata. Small writings on Plato and Platonism , Stuttgart 1999, pp. 361–364; Wolfgang L. Gombocz: The philosophy of the outgoing antiquity and the early Middle Ages , Munich 1997, p. 126f .; Heinrich Dörrie , Matthias Baltes: Platonism in antiquity , Volume 5, Stuttgart-Bad Cannstatt 1998, pp. 30-33, 265-270 and Volume 7.1, Stuttgart-Bad Cannstatt 2008, pp. 218f., 595f.
  52. See also Carlos Steel: The One and the Good: Some Reflections on a Neoplatonic Identification. In: Arjo Vanderjagt, Detlev Pätzold (Hrsg.): The Neoplatonic Tradition. Jewish, Christian and Islamic Themes , Cologne 1991, pp. 9–25, here: 18f .; Jens Halfwassen: Plotin and Neoplatonism , Munich 2004, pp. 94f., 138.
  53. On the definition of the bad as the non-existent see Christian Schäfer: Unde malum , Würzburg 2002, pp. 51–193; Karin Alt : Weltflucht and Weltbejahung , Stuttgart 1993, pp. 63–81; Fritz-Peter Hager: Matter and Evil in Ancient Platonism. In: Clemens Zintzen (Ed.): The Philosophy of Neo-Platonism , Darmstadt 1977, pp. 427–474, here: 444–469; Werner Beierwaltes : Thinking of the One , Frankfurt am Main 1985, pp. 182-192.
  54. Plotinus enneads II and V 9,3,5-12 4,1,34-39.
  55. Werner Beierwaltes: Proklos' concept of the good from the perspective of his Plato interpretation . In: Werner Beierwaltes: Procliana , Frankfurt am Main 2007, pp. 85–108, here: 89–94, 98–101.
  56. ^ Benjamin Gleede: Plato and Aristoteles in der Kosmologie des Proklos , Tübingen 2009, pp. 110–112; Heinrich Dörrie, Matthias Baltes: Platonism in antiquity , Volume 5, Stuttgart-Bad Cannstatt 1998, pp. 32f., 269f.
  57. On the transcendence of God with regard to the good in Philo, see Mauro Bonazzi: Towards Transcendence: Philo and the Renewal of Platonism in the Early Imperial Age . In: Francesca Alesse (ed.): Philo of Alexandria and Post-Aristotelian Philosophy , Leiden 2008, pp. 233–251, here: 234–239.
  58. On Clemens' negative theology, see Henny Fiskå Hägg: Clement of Alexandria and the Beginnings of Christian Apophaticism , Oxford 2006, pp. 153–164; Hella Theill miracle: The archaic concealment , Munich 1970, pp. 130-136.
  59. On Augustine's concept see Christian Schäfer: Unde malum. The question of where evil comes from in Plotinus, Augustine and Dionysius , Würzburg 2002, pp. 194–348.
  60. Augustine, De civitate dei 11:21.
  61. ^ Plato, Timaeus 29e – 30a.
  62. Hella Theill-Wunder: Die archaische Verborgenheit , Munich 1970, pp. 148–165 (on God's goodness pp. 152, 161f.); Ralf Stolina: Nobody has ever seen God , Berlin 2000, pp. 13-19.
  63. ^ On Eriugena's negative theology, see Hilary Anne-Marie Mooney: Theophany. The Appearing of God According to the Writings of Johannes Scottus Eriugena , Tübingen 2009, pp. 67-70.
  64. ^ Hilary Anne-Marie Mooney: Theophany. The Appearing of God According to the Writings of Johannes Scottus Eriugena , Tübingen 2009, pp. 104-108.
  65. Jacques Guy Bougerol: Saint Bonaventure: Etudes sur les sources de sa pensée , Northampton 1989, pp. I 81-123; Werner Beierwaltes: Platonism in Christianity , Frankfurt am Main 1998, pp. 85–99.
  66. On Anselm's argument, see Chung-Mi HwangBo: Judgment and Knowledge of God. On the structure of the argument in the monologion of Anselm von Canterbury , Freiburg 2007, pp. 41–57.
  67. Jan A. Aertsen: Medieval Philosophy and the Transcendentals , Leiden 1996, pp. 290–334; Rolf Schönberger : Thomas von Aquin for an introduction , Hamburg 1998, pp. 76–85.
  68. An overview is provided by Klaus Riesenhuber : Gut, das Gute, das Gut. III. Middle ages . In: Historical Dictionary of Philosophy , Volume 3, Basel 1974, Sp. 951–960, here: 953f.
  69. ^ Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae II, pars prima, quaestio 3, articulus 1 ad 2.
  70. Gabriel Biel, Collectorium circa quattuor libros Sententiarum liber 1, distinctio 17, quaestio 1, articulus 3, corollarium 1. On Ockham's position see Hubert Schröcker: The relationship of God's omnipotence to the contradiction principle according to Wilhelm von Ockham , Berlin 2003, p. 88– 118.
  71. Karl Erich Grözinger : Jewish Thinking , Volume 1, Frankfurt am Main 2004, pp. 483-487. See Warren Zev Harvey: Ethics and Meta-Ethics, Aesthetics and Meta-Aesthetics in Maimonides. In: Shlomo Pines, Yirmiyahu Yovel (ed.): Maimonides and Philosophy , Dordrecht 1986, pp. 131-138.
  72. On Spinoza's understanding of the good, see Wolfgang Bartuschat: Baruch de Spinoza , Munich 1996, pp. 114–116.
  73. ^ Walter Euchner : Natural Law and Politics with John Locke , Frankfurt am Main 1979, pp. 109–118.
  74. ^ On Rousseau's thinking, see Nicholas JH Dent: A Rousseau Dictionary , Oxford 1992, pp. 174–177; Iring Fetscher : Rousseau's political philosophy , Frankfurt am Main (1st edition) 1975 (10th edition 2009), pp. 62–78; James Delaney: Rousseau and the Ethics of Virtue , Continuum, London-New York 2006; Laurence D. Cooper: Rousseau and Nature. The Problem of the Good Life . Penn State University Press, University Park 1999.
  75. Immanuel Kant: Basis for the Metaphysics of Morals , Academy Edition (= Kant's Works Vol. 4), Berlin 1911, p. 393f.
  76. Immanuel Kant: Critique of Practical Reason , Academy Edition (= Kant's Works Vol. 5), Berlin 1913, p. 62.
  77. Immanuel Kant: Critique of Practical Reason , Academy Edition (= Kant's Works Vol. 5), Berlin 1913, pp. 62–65.
  78. Immanuel Kant: Critique of Practical Reason , Academy Edition (= Kant's Works Vol. 5), Berlin 1913, p. 110.
  79. An introduction to Hegel's conception of morality is offered by Charles Taylor : Hegel , Frankfurt am Main 1978, pp. 477–508, 563–565.
  80. ^ Friedrich Nietzsche: The Antichrist . In: Friedrich Nietzsche: Complete Works. Critical study edition , Volume 6, 2nd edition, Munich 1988, pp. 165–254, here: 177.
  81. ^ Friedrich Nietzsche: The Antichrist . In: Friedrich Nietzsche: Complete Works. Critical study edition , Volume 6, 2nd edition, Munich 1988, pp. 165-254, here: 177. Cf. Djavid Salehi: gut, das Gute . In: Christian Niemeyer : Nietzsche-Lexikon , Darmstadt 2009, pp. 140f.
  82. See also William David Ross: The Right and the Good , Oxford 1930 ( e-Text [partial edition]), new edition ed. by Philip Stratton-Lake , Oxford 2002 ( Review by Mark Timmons, 2003).
  83. See Monika Hofmann-Riedinger: good / the good / the bad . In: Marcus Düwell, Christoph Hübenthal, Micha H. Werner (eds.): Handbuch Ethik , 3rd, updated edition, Stuttgart and Weimar 2011, pp. 387–391, here: 387f .; Micha H. Werner: Right . In: Jean-Pierre Wils , Christoph Hübenthal (ed.): Lexikon der Ethik , Paderborn 2006, pp. 331–335 ( online ).
  84. Mark van Roojen offers a systematic overview: Moral Cognitivism vs. Non-Cognitivism . In: Edward N. Zalta (Ed.): Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy .
  85. Wolfgang Bartuschat offers an overview: Gut, das Gute, das Gut. IV. Modern times. In: Historical Dictionary of Philosophy , Volume 3, Basel 1974, Sp. 960–972, here: 970f.
  86. ^ Gertrude Elizabeth Anscombe: Modern Moral Philosophy . In: Philosophy 33/124, 1958, pp. 1-19 ( online ).
  87. See Julia Driver: Elizabeth Margaret Anscombe, 5th Moral Philosophy . In: Edward N. Zalta (Ed.): Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy and the most important literature cited there.
  88. Philippa Foot: Moral Arguments . In: Mind 67/268, 1958, pp. 502–513. See Foot's earlier essay, The Philosopher's Defense of Morality . In: Philosophy 27/103, 1952, pp. 311–328.
  89. Philippa Foot: Natural Goodness , Oxford 2001, German: Die Natur des Guten , Frankfurt am Main 2004.
  90. For classification and reception see Thomas Hoffmann, Michael Reuter (ed.): Naturally good: Essays on the philosophy of Philippa Foot , Heusenstamm 2010.
  91. A brief overview of MacIntyre is provided by Ted Clayton:  Political Philosophy of Alasdair MacIntyre. In: Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy . .
  92. Iris Murdoch: The Sovereignty of Good , 2nd edition, New York 2001. Among the other thematically relevant publications - in addition to literary works - are u. a. Thematic treatment in Murdoch's collection of essays Existentialists and Mystics: Writings in Philosophy and Literature , London 1997.
  93. See e.g. B. Maria Antonaccio, William Schweiker (Eds.): Iris Murdoch and the Search for Human Goodness , Chicago 1996; Megan Laverty: Iris Murdoch's Ethics: A Consideration of her Romantic Vision , London a. a. 2007 ( review by Christopher Cordner, 2008); Ana Lita: "Seeing" human goodness: Iris Murdoch on moral virtue . In: Minerva. An Internet Journal of Philosophy 7, 2003; Fiona Ellis: Levinas and Murdoch on God and Good . In: European Journal for Philosophy of Religion 1/2, 2009; Heather Widdows: The Moral Vision Of Iris Murdoch , Aldershot 2005; Heather Widdows: Murdochian evil and striving to be good . In: Pedro Alexis Tabensky (Ed.): The Positive Function of Evil , New York 2009, pp. 81–97.
  94. See for example Elizabeth Burns: Iris Murdoch and the Nature of Good . In: Religious Studies 33/3, 1997, pp. 303-313.
  95. See for example the relevant articles by Martha Nussbaum in: Justin Broackes (ed.): Iris Murdoch, Philosopher , Oxford 2012 and Mark Luprect (ed.): Iris Murdoch: Influence and Influences , Knoxville (probably) 2012.
  96. See e.g. B. Judith A. Jones: "Teach Us to See It": A Retrieval of Metaphysics in Ethics . In: The Journal of Speculative Philosophy , New Series 12/1, 1998, pp. 1-19.
  97. See Hilary Putnam: The Collapse of the Fact / Value Dichotomy and Other Essays , Harvard 2004.
  98. See e.g. B. Matthew JM Martinuk: A Fundamental Orientation to the Good: Iris Murdoch's Influence on Charles Taylor . In: Mark Luprect (Ed.): Iris Murdoch: Influence and Influences , Knoxville (probably) 2012.
  99. See e.g. B. Stephen Mark Gardiner (Ed.): Virtue Ethics Old and New , Ithaca and New York 2005; Michael Schwartz: Moral Vision: Iris Murdoch and Alasdair MacIntyre . In: Journal of Business Ethics 90/3, 2009, pp. 315–327.
  100. ^ Overview in Walter Sinnott-Armstrong: Consequentialism . In: Edward N. Zalta (Ed.): Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy , abstract by Larry Alexander, Michael Moore: Ethics, 1. Deontology's Foil: Consequentialism . In: Edward N. Zalta (Ed.): Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy .
  101. Larry Alexander, Michael Moore: Deontological Ethics provide an overview . In: Edward N. Zalta (Ed.): Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy .
  102. See the brief historical summary by Jonathan Dancy: From intuitionism to emotivism . In: Thomas Baldwin (ed.): The Cambridge History of Philosophy 1870–1945 , Cambridge 2003, pp. 693–703. A compact monographic presentation is provided by Thomas Hurka: Underivative Duty , Oxford 2011.
  103. Josef Seifert: Truth and Person , Heusenstamm 2009, pp. 96-102.
  104. ^ Albert Schweitzer: Collected Works in Five Volumes , Vol. 2, Munich 1974, p. 141.
  105. ^ Albert Schweitzer: Collected Works in Five Volumes , Vol. 2, Munich 1974, p. 360.
  106. Albert Schweitzer: Collected works in five volumes , Vol. 2, Munich 1974, p. 378. Cf. Claus Günzler: Albert Schweitzer. Introduction to his thinking , Munich 1996, pp. 116–119.
  107. Albert Schweitzer: Collected Works in Five Volumes , Vol. 5, Munich 1974, p. 127. See on the development of Schweitzer's understanding of the good Gerhard Gansterer: Die Ehrfurcht vor dem Leben , Frankfurt am Main 1997, pp. 97-101, 133f .
  108. ^ Martin Buber: Bilder von Gut und Böse , 2nd edition, Cologne 1953, p. 10, 109–112. See Andrea Poma: Unity of the Heart and Scattered Self: A Postmodern Reading of Buber's Doctrine of Evil . In: Michael Zank (Ed.): New Perspectives on Martin Buber , Tübingen 2006, pp. 165–174, here: 165–170.
  109. Ernst Bloch: The principle of hope. In five parts. Chapter 38-55 , Frankfurt am Main 1959, pp. 1565f.
  110. ^ Hans Jonas: The principle of responsibility , 3rd edition, Frankfurt am Main 1982, p. 386.
  111. Hans Jonas: The principle of responsibility , 3rd edition, Frankfurt am Main 1982, p. 64f.
  112. Ulrich Unger : Basic Concepts of Ancient Chinese Philosophy , Darmstadt 2000, pp. 39, 101.
  113. Ulrich Unger: Basic Concepts of Ancient Chinese Philosophy , Darmstadt 2000, p. 96.
  114. Wolfgang Bauer : History of Chinese Philosophy , Munich 2001, pp. 97-103; Heiner Roetz : The Chinese Ethics of the Axial Age, Frankfurt am Main 1992, pp. 317–343.
  115. See on the controversy Ulrich Unger: Basic Concepts of Old Chinese Philosophy , Darmstadt 2000, pp. 95–98; Wolfgang Bauer: History of Chinese Philosophy , Munich 2001, pp. 103-108; Heiner Roetz: The Chinese Ethics of the Axial Age, Frankfurt am Main 1992, pp. 343–363.
  116. Wolfgang Bauer: History of Chinese Philosophy , Munich 2001, pp. 108–116; Heiner Roetz: The Chinese Ethics of the Axial Age, Frankfurt am Main 1992, pp. 408–417.
  117. See on these terms Ulrich Unger: Basic Concepts of Old Chinese Philosophy , Darmstadt 2000, pp. 55f.
  118. Wolfgang Bauer: History of Chinese Philosophy , Munich 2001, pp. 267–272.
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