When people meet somebody who hurts us or just behaves in an inappropriate way, we usually think that the world would be so wonderful, if all people were good.

I know that one can have his own definition of being good, but I think almost everyone would agree that being good means behaving the same way one would expect others to behave.

But if it really became real that everyone was good, how could we perceive them as good if our definition of being good is determined by distinction between good and evil? How could we appreciate anyone's personality? I assume it wouldn't be possible. Are we therefore bound to live being aware of the endless conflict between those two? The only thing I can think of is that if everyone became better, we would still find reasons to consider people evil. For example, if people stopped killing each other (for most people to kill somebody is the worst thing possible), but they would still steal from each other, the theft would become the most evil act and so on.

Does it mean that it's actually good that some people are evil and the statement "It's good to be bad" can be true?

  • 5
    This is not a philosophical answer but in "The No Asshole Rule" Sutton writes about research that shows that having a "token asshole" around actually makes everybody else behave better. We seem to be better behaved if we have a role-model of bad behaviour - i.e. whatever you do, don't do what (that asshole) would.
    – firtydank
    Commented Jun 26, 2014 at 14:19
  • 2
    @firtydank: isn't that like saying that it's a good thing that some people act like jerks, because otherwise some people might act like jerks? If the premise is that perfect social harmony is unstable, one should just say so. Commented Jun 26, 2014 at 23:30
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    @Niel I don't know if Sutton's aim is to justify such a strong premise (his book is not about philosophy or deeper truths), but it's an interesting psychological observation none the less.
    – firtydank
    Commented Jun 27, 2014 at 6:32
  • Evil in Utopia? might be of interest. Commented Nov 4, 2022 at 15:11
  • I'd be good, and you'd be good. What is "it"? I think you've confused language if you are asking whether good things are good, absolutism aside (not gonna pretend I fully understood Russell "is there an absolute good", but it is readily available on-line... I'm guessing, post hoc, he's saying that good things can conflict)
    – user63148
    Commented Nov 4, 2022 at 23:46

10 Answers 10


Good would still be good if everyone was good.

The mere fact that we would be able to determine ourselves as good would imply the ability to determine bad , of which no one would be.

Throughout the ages the dictum

Do unto others has you would have them do unto you

Would still apply. This seems to be inherent in most humans ( although that might be a discussion for another question ) and a principle based on these inherent truths would still exist ( unless it does not considering this being a hypothetical )

I think a certain ambiguity in your assumption is that the bases of good is that it is the antithesis of evil, and if that is the case , then evil is determined as the antithesis of good which creates circular reasoning.

This is an interesting question because what if we extend this to animals. If animals apply to the same good / evil paradigm as humans , then the mere action of getting food for a lot animals is evil. Could it not be that in the existence of the animal kingdom that their actions, being so deterministic, are by their very nature only good. Could we consider killer whales evil for hunting their own kind? Could they consider themselves evil? Is it the mere fact that we can consider at all, the primary reason that there is a separation between the two?

but getting back to your question

Does it mean that it's actually good that some people are evil and the statement "It's good to be bad" can be true?

This in itself is a contradiction of terms, relative only to the people unaffected by the evil perpetrated. Although the "The No Asshole Rule" is cute, the asshole can negatively effect member/s of the group ,where all the others are guided by the fact that they should not act like him, yet the effected member/s are still inflicted by the asshole, and so would not consider it good.

Would it be better if everyone was good? Well i think there would be less pain in this world, i think there would be more respect, i think it would be more human.

  • Like in the Star Trek movie where Kirk says that Spock is the must 'human' person he knows.
    – Scott Rowe
    Commented Nov 4, 2022 at 18:58

Your conclusion relies on some absurd premises.

First, "our definition of being good is determined by distinction between good and evil" is a huge assumption you're making.

You're also operating under the premise that if something doesn't happen, people can't imagine or conceptualize it. By your logic, people in developed countries wouldn't consider slavery to be evil because they stopped practicing it, but clearly there are many people who consider slavery to be evil.

  • Are you claiming you are not relying on absurd in your everyday thoughts? Then why you did not reply original question? So -> Would it be good if everybody was good?
    – Asphir Dom
    Commented Jun 29, 2014 at 22:51
  • Whether my everyday thoughts are rational is irrelevant to this question.
    – alfred
    Commented Jun 30, 2014 at 6:48
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    I believe the main point of the question was more about whether the author's line of reasoning was sound. The answer to the question itself depends on what you believe, such as exactly how you define "good" and "evil", which makes it hard to answer without knowing what belief system the asker is operating under.
    – alfred
    Commented Jun 30, 2014 at 7:05

Morality and virtue are determined by the culture one lives in. We might consider selfish and violent people evil, but back in ancient Greece, it was embraced (see the Iliad). Furthermore, theories of goodness vary even within our modern cultures. The utilitarians believe goodness depends on obtaining the greatest amount of "utility". Whereas, Kant thought ethics has nothing to do with utility, acts are either right or wrong in and of themselves (see the Categorical Imperative).

Slavery or forced servitude is considered evil, yet, especially in the developing world but also in modern western societies, slavery still exists; it's called working in a "sweat shop" for a paltry minimum wage. In these situations, people have no choice but to sell their labour cheaply, else they'll starve.

You make a good point though Piotr, if everyone became "good", whatever that means, it does not follow our world would become a utopia of virtue. Our understanding of morality would change and bad people will continue to exist.

  • I'm not sure thats right about the Illiad; Achilles fit of pique leads to the death of Patroclus, and Paris's kidnapping of Helen, Menelaus's wife leads to the death of Hector and the fall of Troy; the values of the warrior ethic in antiquity are of heroism and honour - not violence and selfishness. Commented Jun 27, 2014 at 22:04
  • Perhaps you're right Mozibur. Yet, the bulk of the Iliad, when I read the thing, appears to be line after line of violent warfare. "so those Aiantes carried Imbrius' corpse and stripped it bare. Raging for his dead friend, Oileus' son swift Aias sheared off the head, swung it around and flung it like a ball, and it rolled in the dust to Hector's feet." And didn't the Greeks sack Troy after breaching their walls? Commented Jun 28, 2014 at 13:53
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    @lee:That is undoubtedly there, and lots of it - Simone Weil called the Illiad a poem of force; I'm saying its not simply about force. Commented Jun 28, 2014 at 18:16
  • Most likely people who have everything going their preferred way would become more petty and inflexible, like the worst case of 'fragility' imaginable.
    – Scott Rowe
    Commented Nov 4, 2022 at 19:12

But if it really became real that everyone was good, how could we perceive them as good if our definition of being good is determined by distinction between good and evil?

Nothing is stopping you from perceiving them as such. The concept of evil actions doesn't suddenly disappear just because no one is committing the act. For example, there aren't currently any nuclear wars going on, but you can still appreciate the absence of nuclear war, despite not living in an environment where a nuclear war is likely to break out at any time.

A society where everyone is good would of course be... Good! It doesn't make sense to say that goodness increases as evil diminishes, until the last evil is gone, then for some reason the good disappears and is replaced by ... ? I don't know what it would be replaced by.

Similarly, the converse holds true as well. Imagine a universe where everyone is as evil as possible. All conscious creatures are destined to endure the worst possible suffering, and every agent with free will uses every choice they have to increase the terror for everyone as much as possible. There is no good in such a universe, right? Then if it is not evil, I don't know what you mean by "evil", and I'm pretty sure that neither do you.

  • This is like the Sam Harris notion of the worst of all possible worlds.
    – Scott Rowe
    Commented Nov 4, 2022 at 19:08

"Would it be good if everyone was good?"

No, it wouldn't, it would be better. If all beings were to act good, synergy will be formed, hence everybody would live a happier live.

"Would it be better if everyone was good?" Yes.


Would it be good if everyone was good?

Sure; one could object and say standards would change, but this means simply the right standards hadn't been applied in the first place; one could further object that it would be unstable and some people would become bad, one counters this by saying that those weren't really good.

One could finally object by saying that this is an unrealistic vision; and this is true - I'm answering this question on what might be called through the metaphysics of virtue or of the Good.

  • What are the right standards that should be applied and how do you know them?
    – k0pernikus
    Commented Jun 30, 2014 at 10:36
  • @kOpernikus: I don't know the right standards - I said this is 'unrealistic vision'! I'm talking of the Good in terms of itself. Commented Jun 30, 2014 at 11:10

The simple answer to the main question is, YES (it is better to live in a society were everybody is "good"). For the question, "if... everyone is good, how would we be able to perceive them as good"? The answer is that even if all "evil doers" cease to exist, our concept of evil does not get erased from our minds, therefore if someone we perceived as "good" starts doing "evil things," we would perceive it immediately. As for the final statement, "it's good to be bad." has to be evaluated from two points of view. If you are the person doing the "bad," then most likely, it will be good for you (you obtained some gain). If you are the person to whom the "bad" is done, then most likely will say it is bad (you suffer a loss).


When you say "Would it be good if everyone was good?" you imply, as far as I can tell, two different types of good. I think the first definition of good you are talking about is good vs bad. Which is more of a positive vs negative way of looking at it. With the second "good", I think you mean that people cannot inflict evil, meaning, doing good (pleasing, helping, loving, caring) is all thats left within a human.

Im also assuming that with "everyone is good" you mean that they are good forever and always have been, instead of just at a specific time in history. In that case it would mean that evil does not exist (or atleast is never used by people). Moral evil, to be specific (I think moral evil is the only evil that exists, see here why). In this case it is simply true that this is a "good" (morally) world. People do each other no harm and live peacefully together. Tragedy still exists though, so people still suffer.

Looking at human biology (which id say is mostly still the same) we probably will have way more trouble handling suffering. When you are born, your upbringing has the most impact on your mental state. If you never experience evil pain from birth up untill, for example, your thirties, you will probably go into depression very quickly once a relative dies or an lightning bolt hits your friend. Tragedy would be felt more painfull than ever before. You can see this as a negative result of everyone being good (morally). In this idea, it is indeed "good" (positive) that sometimes people are evil (morally). They prepare you from bigger difficulties in life. Very paradoxical.

Just to be clear:

  • If everyone is good (morally), then no evil exists.
  • If everyone is good (morally), then humans can still perceive evil when someone brings it up as an idea. The definition of moral evil, Moral evil is any morally negative event caused by the intentional action or inaction of an agent, such as a person, can still exist if we all act morally good. People just have to bring up this idea for it to be perceived.
  • If everyone is good (morally), then appreciating one's personality is the only thing humans can do. Hating one's personality or disliking it, by expression, is evil. Which is impossible in a morally good world.
  • 1
    It is like how young children have to be exposed to germs to develop a strong immune system. Unless you can guarantee a sterile environment, weak immunity will cause a lot of problems.
    – Scott Rowe
    Commented Nov 4, 2022 at 19:01

When people meet somebody who hurts us or just behaves in an inappropriate way, we usually think that the world would be so wonderful if all people were good.

How do you know that hurting you was the person's intent and not just simply a mistake? And if you perceive an action as inappropriate, maybe you have a too strict of a view of how other people should behave?

Is e.g. Marilyn Manson an artist who expresses himself or an inappropriate human being that should be banned to perform and his CD be burned?

Yet let's assume that all people could act good (for whichever definition of goodness you want to apply):

If everybody was acting good then there would be no need to label humans in categories of good and bad behavior. In a world without an illness the term "health" would lose its purpose and we could do without the label.

How would you find the the notion to wish for an illness in such a world just so one can make the distinction between healthy and sick people? From a philanthropic perspective that seems absurd.

I hence would reject the notion that it would be good for some to be evil.

The real question that it is hiding is what kind of behavior is deemed good? And how to define what is evil?

As there is no universal understanding what those terms mean, unless you are operating under the premise that a divine being commands what ought to be good and what ought to be bad, it is not possible to declare a state in which all people would be good.

Also, is an action in itself evil or does it depend on the intent? Is it always evil to steal or is it something else if you steal expensive medicine for a sick friend of yours?

Human values are changing over times and so the perception what is considered good and bad does so as well.

The statement "It's good to be bad" is only ever used by Disney villains that are bad simply for the reason of being bad. No human that has, from our perspective, committed atrocities ever sees oneself as the bad guy, they think they are the good guys.

That is also why I would opt for not using the terms good and evil to describe human behavior. We should ask ourselves in what kind of society we want to live in and what methods we want to use to achieve it, completely without obscuring the matter with a fuzzy notion of good or evil.

Some societies have declared war to be a central part of their culture, and a hero death was the most respected one. Other people want to live in a peaceful way together on this planet and have as much fun while being here and then die in their sleep. I know I'd chose the latter lifestyle, yet it's not inherent better than the other one.


Would it be good if everyone was good?

This is a specific case of:

Would it be X if everyone were X?


Does everyone being individually X imply that everyone is collectively X?

That should be easy to answer for most X, but only if one has a precise definition of what it meas to be X.

If X is "less than 1.8 metres tall", then yes (assuming everyone has their feet flat on the ground).

If X is "intelligent", then no (consider mob mentality).

If X is "less than 100 kg in weight", then no (collectively we'd weight billions of kg).

If X is "good" then no one can say without a strict definition of what "good" means.

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