Pondering Goodness Sends You Down the Rabbit Hole

It’s Day 2 of this wild quest. Have you noticed that thinking about this question of goodness tends to send the mind down an ever-deepening rabbit hole of questions? One question leads to another and then another.

I started by asking, What is goodness?  That leads to, What is a good person? And then we really start tumbling down the hole.

  • Can I be good if I do what’s right for myself and for others?
  • If so, then what the heck does “right” mean?
  • Is what’s right for me, the same as what’s right for you?
  • Is what’s right always the same, or are there times when that varies?
  • Is what’s good in one culture the same as what’s good in another? Should it be?
  • Can I harm another human being by doing what I think is right?
  • How can I tell when my good becomes evil for someone else?
  • How can a society (better yet, my society) become good? Is that even possible?
  • What would a good society look like? Can we even conceive of that? Why not?

See what I mean. What questions do you think I should ask in my journey to find goodness?

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2 Responses to Pondering Goodness Sends You Down the Rabbit Hole

  1. Here’s a question that keeps occurring to me: How do we balance tolerance and goodness? Part of my own working definition of goodness is that it includes tolerance of the beliefs of others — particularly religious beliefs. But is it good to be tolerant of intolerant religious beliefs, such as the ones that claim only the adherents of their particular faith are “going to heaven”?

    Oh, and yes, I think it is very possible to harm another person by doing what you think is right. In Dorothy Sayers’s Gaudy Night, Lord Peter says at one point, “The first thing a principle does is kill somebody.” (That may not be an exact quote, but it’s close.) I don’t think it implies that one should not act on principle, but rather that one should be aware that in acting on principle there are consequences that may be disturbing.

    This is such a great venture. You’ve got me thinking philosophically even before I’ve finished my coffee!

  2. dianesilver says:

    Tough questions! The one on tolerance certainly ties me up in knots. I have long subscribed to the idea that there are many paths up the mountain to God/Enlightenment. I can see that different people need different things, yet some of those paths come complete with buzz saws that slice chunks out of people. If you’re gay and born into a fundamentalist family, your life can be a living hell, for example. A woman living under the Taliban can’t even show her face or make a living for her family if her husband dies.

    Harming another by doing right is equally tough. Given that us mere mortals are flawed, the issue becomes how can we tell if what we’re doing is hurting another? What can make us open our eyes and stop it?

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