As Nietzsche differentiated there are two kind of good: this question focus is on the contrary of bad, not the contrary of evil.

There are quite a lot possibilities to define the common term "good". Every person and group has it own definitions. It even gets worse if it gets to concrete stuff like "what is a good question".

What are those definitions of good/bad? Where to find them? How are they built, how did they evolve? How are they reasoned?

E.g. for me, "good" is a multidimensional construct you can't calculate an absolute from. Now it depends on which "glasses" you were on if you consider it a "good" joke or an ethical offense.

  • I did some research on google, I didn't find a lot on the meta, but lots of definitions without without arguments. I also searched on here, same here. – inetphantom Feb 14 at 7:49
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    Not very clear... You are asking for the meaning of "good" when used outside of an ethical context ? See also Good. – Mauro ALLEGRANZA Feb 14 at 7:58
  • @Mauro I am trying to get a picture of the term good - in your comment you refer to ethically good, but that's only one dimension. And Thanks for the link! – inetphantom Feb 14 at 8:09
  • This may be too broad or primarily opinion based. Are you concerned with Nietzsche's view? If you are that would focus the question. You could ask many questions on this topic over time rather than just one by making each specific. – Frank Hubeny Feb 14 at 8:44
  • @FrankHubeny I am not very familiar with all the philosophers out there - which ones are relevant? I see it's very broad - but I a concerned with a multitude of views 'cause I want to get a big picture.. So would it be better to ask the same question for each epoch or bigger philosopher? – inetphantom Feb 14 at 9:10

That which is preferable (highly relative term) to me is what I call as good. I assume that, like me, all don't like to be slapped. Hence (w.r.t me) slapping is bad for everyone. But I learn a lot from hard times. Hence hard times (w,r,t my learning) is good. Good and bad are absolutely relative! But in general there is a common preference. It depends on dimension and preference. When all has come from one, can there be god and bad? Its better we leave it to be relative for those who cannot see the one.

  • Is the good preferable or do you prefer what is good? – inetphantom Feb 14 at 9:05
  • I meant, as per our desires/needs/expectations/understandings we wear a specks called attitude. This leads to preferences which decides what should be good for me. Desires and...... give the the definition of good and bad. Lets not get stuck up with play of words. – user36914 Feb 14 at 9:12

As Hegel would have it, egregious selfishness is Evil itself, and the self-destruction of that egoism produces the Good.

Hegel’s Science of Logic, Chapter 3, Section C, (a), § 356

Self-subsistence pushed to the point of the one as a being-for-self is abstract, formal, and destroys itself. It is the supreme, most stubborn error, which takes itself for the highest truth, manifesting in more concrete forms as abstract freedom, pure ego and, further, as Evil. It is that freedom which so misapprehends itself as to place its essence in this abstraction, and flatters itself that in thus being with itself it possesses itself in its purity. More specifically, this self-subsistence is the error of regarding as negative that which is its own essence, and of adopting a negative attitude towards it. Thus it is the negative attitude towards itself which, in seeking to possess its own being destroys it, and this its act is only the manifestation of the futility of this act. The reconciliation is the recognition that the object of this negative attitude is rather its own essence, and is only the letting go of the negativity of its being-for-self instead of holding fast to it.


According to the empirical studies of the Natural Semantic Metalanguage (NSM) project, GOOD is actually a semantic prime: it is a core concept of human cognition, which is believe to be present in all languages and shared by all people, and which is itself irreducible. If the NSM researchers are correct then all attempts to define "good" will be circular and more complicated than the word itself. But we don't need to define it, as it's something we all already know. Having the concept of "good" built into our minds is part of what makes us human.


The best analysis of this type of language terms comes from the systems theory perspective.

Good and bad are our assessment of the results of systemic interaction (just interactions between systems). An interaction being good imply that the interaction was positive from a subjective point of view. Good also implies the increment of the probabilities of repetition.

Example 1: I bought an excelent apple from the new market. The apple was good.

Analysis: The buying-apple interaction I had with the market was positive for me. Therefore I could probably repeat the interaction.

Example 2: Janet is a good person. But I hate her friend Molly.

Analysis: The interactions I had with Jane are positive for me, I would tend to repeat them. On the contrary, the interactions I had with Molly are negative, she's bad for me (perhaps they are good for Janet, but that doesn't matter for me). So, I need to be far from Molly.

For more details, see my answer here:



For a novel approach to the nature of god/evil, perfect/imperfect read Spinoza's preface to the "Ethics" Part Four- Of Human Bondage. In it he explains how, 'something is not good and therefore we desire it, but rather becomes good because we desire it' CS

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