Sunday, March 3, 2013

What Is Good?

I've been thinking of the concept of good heavily this morning from the Taosist perspective. I imagine a Taoist might postulate good would involve just flowing into a crevice where something was needing, then performing that role to the best of your ability. 

It sounds good. Like the Universe guiding you to where you need to be. But what would some other schools of philosophy say? I think a Utilitarian would say you might have limited the amount of overall good (or utility) you could have done by foreclosing on one small corner of the Universe. It's hard to argue that. Or that tending one small corner of the Universe could be thought of as minimizing the amount of good one can do.

What if I only do something that's causes only a smidge more utility than the negative consequences? Now, those negative consequences may linger in the Universe and grow in strength and echo through generations in ways I never accounted for, but according to the law of utility I would have done the right thing. Maybe we don't have the foresight or even all the factors we need in present time to make a determination of how much utility was generated and how much dysfunction will occur in the future. But you could get this type of commentary from a freshman philosophy student. What should we do? 

How much should we do? And when? How much is enough? Are we right to "tend our own gardens" as Voltaire concluded at the end of Candide? Is it possible that even when we feel we are giving the most, all we can give, that even more is required of us? I don't know. I feel like I know that no matter how much we do suffering and injustice will still exist somewhere. How are we to not lose our hope in the face of such insurmountable odds? I don't know. 

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