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Is being a good person even possible?

  • Being a good person is unattainable

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Recently I had a conversation with my friend about, "what it means to be a good person?" And we had two totally different points of view.
While she believed that being a truly good person was nothing more than an impossible measure that the human race has created as a goal or a hope that we can improve, into some kind of super being, when we ourselves are unable to do so.
I, however, believe that being a good person is possible, perhaps not to the degree of being perfect in both thought and action. But people can change, and become a good person.

Basically the point of this thread is to see what everyone's opinion of a good person is. Can people change? Is being a good person possible?
 

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Growing up, I had really good role-models. I had amazing uncles who were kind, honest, genuine, humble and sincere people. So, it doesn't take much to be a decent and humane human being. I've even seen the most Machiavellian of people treat me with respect (as a child you observe a lot). It doesn't take much effort to be an ethical human being. It takes more effort to exert power and control over others to make people's lives miserable, I think- but as humans we're all so different. Some people love watching others feel pain. It comes naturally to them to hurt people, but at the same time, I realize these people have been hurt themselves, too (or at least didn't have the chance to grow up with adults who role-modeled positive behavior).

We don't have to be perfect, but at least we try. And to be a kind human being also starts out with how we treat ourselves. How honest are we with ourselves in our daily lives? How we treat others is how we view ourselves, and/or are taught to. Some people don't know any better. There's always room for improvement for all of us.
 

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As usual with polls on PerC the correct answer is not given in the poll as a choice other than to allow for an OTHER category.
  • Being a good person is unattainable
So, this is correct, and, ... it is IRRELEVANT. What is missing from the rather disingenuous 'answer' is that PERFECT good only is unattainable. That is trap in Pragmatism.

Wisdom DOES NOT counsel people to BE perfect, that is to say, arrive at perfection. Wisdom only demands that you INTEND to aim at perfection with as much of your heart, mind, and body as you can muster.

In focusing on the unattainable nature of perfection, or Utopia in the societal sense, Pragmatism LIES to us all. It does not matter how hard moral duty is, that is still the only path to wisdom and happiness.
  • Being a good person is possible
  • Being a good person is relative
These are effectively the same answer. Because perfection is not possible only a limited amount of intended good is possible for us, each of us. This DOES NOT in any way relieve us or release us from the burden of moral duty, which is intending or aiming at perfection.

The second answer here is even more damning as an idealistic perspective.

The emotion of desire is responsible for idealism. This emotion suggests to us that JUST ANY desire is acceptable. This is the process of addiction. This is a denial of the fear (prison) of (good) judgment. Morality and reality ARE NOT subjective. They are objective.

Subjectivists in their denial of objectivity focus on the wrong part of truth. Rather than realizing that free will is offered to us as a guide to happiness, they see desire as proof of subjectivity. This is an immoral conflation.
  • You can only become a good person for yourself, everyone else has a different ideas in there minds
This is an easily shown as fallacious 'answer'. Your choices affect others. The good is a healing and amazing balm to all around it. The close one's choices are to GOOD, perfect GOOD, the more and more healing and positive influence that person has on others. This is the ONLY reason that morality, moral agency is, in general, increasing throughout time. Happiness is the only positive addiction.
 

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The standard of being good to me, is to do good things for people when they are not looking.
When people don't know who did them a solid, they tend to pay it foward to other people, instead of back at the person who initially helped them.
Good actions are infectious, and I generally believe that people know good when they see it.
 

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I think that the term "good" is subjective. Most likely the answer to that question would depend on how the questioner defines that term. Anyways for my own answer based on how I would define, good. It is definitely not possible to be purely good. However one can believe themselves to be as such even if they aren't really.
 

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Okay wow, I wasn't expecting to get this much feedback hahahaha.
Everyone has different and interesting points of view, but what I'm seeing comes down to, we can be good people, although it's not possible to be perfect, we can become good people according to our own values and morals.
 

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i don't know. personally i'm probably becoming a "better person" the older i get .
strange i know, but i have always had a crippling social anxiety, so i have never been able to be myself anyway. i was busy hiding it, self-centered much..

throughout my life, i met a couple people who were good, though.
3 persons.
 

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Perfection should definitely not be mixed up with goodness at all, IMO. To be honest, I think being unconditionally compassionate towards yourself and others as they are (very flawed) is crucial to goodness. We're all humans, and we should be good to each other as humans.

I also think everyone can learn to be a better person, though I think there's a lot more education involved in the process sometimes than we think. I think to be good in society as it stands right now means you have to be more of a critical thinker than we are otherwise encouraged to be. For example, I have friends and family that went on to hold jobs that actively harm people (jobs in pharma and defense tech) on an even greater scale than what they could do acting as an individual. I really think they have a body count.

They're totally normal though and nice and my friends. I think, as people or individuals, they are good. But their impact on the world and others right now is actually really bad! That might make them bad people, then? But the difference here is specifically I think in a moral education. I don't think we're often taught to consider these things. I guess that's what Hannah Arendt kind of gets at with the concept of "the banality of evil."

To me I guess there's a lot of layers to being a good person that are often ignored. The good thing though is that I think that it's very doable to become more aware of your broader capacities to help or harm others. If you want to watch a TV show that's pretty entertaining on basically exactly all of this, definitely watch The Good Place :) It's been making me think about this stuff a lot lately.
 

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Okay wow, I wasn't expecting to get this much feedback hahahaha.
Everyone has different and interesting points of view, but what I'm seeing comes down to, we can be good people, although it's not possible to be perfect, we can become good people according to our own values and morals.
So, again, I feel the need to caution you, and many of these other subjectivists.

No, you CANNOT be good according to your own values. GOOD is objective. A serial killer might erroneously believe that they should be allowed to indulge their desire to feel powerful by killing.

Most subjectivists are desire types. They make their errors because they sort of realize on some level that if morality is objective, they have a ton of personal self-indulgence to answer for. That is ... TRUE.

Further, subjectivists and desire types also are prone to detest judgement and limits, even the GOOD ones, and there are GOOD ones. So the way I like to point out to them how ridiculous their stance is, is to mention that order types, fear types, prefer the company of their own kind, prefer to advance and exalt ONLY their own kind, prefer to 'win' over others. These are their subjective ideas of what is good. These are issues related to bigotry and greed. They are OBJECTIVELY immoral, ... just the same as self indulgence not aimed at the objective GOOD is.

So, again, no, there is no 'your truth' and 'my truth'. There is only THE Truth. There is your opinion and my opinion, and truth cares enough about your real essence, the GOOD, to NEVER change, despite the possible foolishness of your (anyone's) opinion. When you think that Truth has changed, you are deluded. Only you have.
 

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Someone who's always here to help solving problems and never cause any is always viewed as a "good person". What do you teach to children? You volunteer to help, you're a good kid. You throw a tantrum and cause trouble, you're a bad kid. Of course the principle is easy to bias and pervert. Annoying a troublemaker is not causing trouble. Helping them is. It takes to understand what are the problems before discerning who does good or bad, who helps to solve or cause more troubles.
 

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If that’s true, then goodness can be empirically measured. Pray tell me, the method that measures good, and the units it’s quantified in.
In what sort of units should I quantify your reasoning for it to be an object?

If all objects are made of units and units are objects, then tell us the units they're quantified in.

Enough with the preschool pseudorationalism; Reality is not to be measured on a scale. Truth isn't made of particles of truth. Scales measure the recurrence of an event, not its existence.
 

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If that’s true, then goodness can be empirically measured. Pray tell me, the method that measures good, and the units it’s quantified in.
I love this. It is a great challenge.

Although I understand your reasoning, of course, it is ONLY that, reasoning. And that is the problem.

Wisdom >> Intelligence.

Every aspect of this last statement is important. Wisdom is not JUST greater than intelligence in importance. Wisdom transcends intelligence.

Whereas intelligence is indeed one of the 9 virtues at awareness, wisdom is the whole thing, the hard to quantify unity of all.

Intelligence is to wisdom as the virtue of awareness is to love itself.

I know being a path of reason person, or at least predisposed to over-value reason, you probably want to puke now. So be it.

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You see the truth is that mystery is itself a virtue. This is the reason for non-determinism. This is the reason that desire can move in any direction via free will, while at the same time part of the reason that there is only a single correct direction. That allows for relative beauty. Beauty and mystery are the same virtue in terms of source.

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So, your preferred path as indicated here by your challenge is reason and evidence. That is the path of order and fear. It is not the only path and not the only equal path amid moral truth.

This means that the other two paths, and there are only two, anger, and desire; are equally valuable.

Wisdom is a balance of virtues, in three directions at once. The path of order and fear is dedicated to the past. Fear is only a excitable state resulting from matching patterns from one's past. As such fear is deeply linked only to the past, with respect to time.

The past is dead and gone. Although it is true that patterns in objective reality remain similar, or we could not make progress, or even FEEL progress, these patterns are NOT remembered or stored properly. There is error. That error is delusion. No memory is perfect. Such it is with the path of reason. That path alone is very prone to being flawed.

To be wise you must accept the equal importance of the paths of anger and desire. That is a theoretical contention, with some compelling evidence to back it up, but never ever certainties. Wisdom also asserts the same thing as Voltaire did, 'Doubt may be a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd!' I would amend even that great quote to say, '... the need for certainty is absurd!' Within my model, the same emotion that arises the need for awareness, combines with anger to demand certainty, in a colossal mixed error. Desire in this case knows better, or you can say should be mixed in as well in equal strength. That desire will yield the balance of GOOD (with fear and anger).

So, talk of exact measurements and quantities in general, and even units is all the path of reason, the path of fear. We DO need that path. So your question is valid and I would love to be able to JUST spew it out. But the truth IS NOT that simple. The truth is it takes MORE than JUST reason and the path of fear. It takes courage (anger) and will (desire), and in equal measure. To be wise we must HAPPILY accept and prefer the unknown mystery. This affords us choice. This is the same as the system of love itself, affording us choice.

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Although we are wise to prefer free will and choice, the same as the system of love that has evolved the universe locally into us, we realize that we fail (when the whole system ultimately does not). We need a process of wisdom, something to guide us that answers properly to all three paths.

We face mystery and the unknown. We must do so because we exist and we express courage (anger). Anger offers us the defacto awareness of being. This is intuition. This is one informant to wisdom.

After intuition the body mirrors patterns of the environment. These must be kept in order to learn. All this process of keeping patterns is the business of fear, the emotion of the past. The more aware we are the more prepared we can be, and the more joy in our skill and being we can thus exhibit.

This dealing with the past comes back to the body in the present tense. Now we can challenge the body with these patterns. We can prefer strong patterns over weaker ones. And we realize that strong is moral and weak is a form of immoral. It is important here to note a distinction.

Anger IS NOT saying that being weak is immoral. Being is just what is, currently. Anger is only saying the CHOICE to remain weak is immoral. And everything is choice.

Anger also expresses balance and that oddly is calm. So calm is actually a goal of the anger virtue.

Anger then goes on to look towards the future and prefer what is correct, using righteous judgment.

This then leads to desire. Desire is the will to become. It is only associated thus with the future. At first we use will to tie ourselves to judgment and to identity. These two ties relate to both hierarchy (group) and intimacy (individual). This part of desire is the virtue of service.

Then desire moves on to the realization of its self destruction in service. It must transcend that and realizes that will should be promotional. It should achieve.

Finally before the dust settles, desire also admits to the unique flaws of each piece of truth. This is beauty. This is mystery and we have come full circle.

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Amid that process, that circle, the way to go about it is this: ALWAYS use desire to seek perfection (Idealism). That is a proper way to set goals. But you must then work towards these aims in a safe and doable (objective aiming) manner (Pragmatism). All the while you must remember to balance these two and increase them in intensity (presence and anger - no ism that I know of). Further on that last bit you must have appropriate rest/calm, to heal/reflect and grow (morally). This is the only path to real success. Real success is ONLY moral success. This is shown to us by the model of love.

Love is the only conclusion.
 
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I believe we should strive to be good knowing that we may fall short at times and have to make amends. We don't always know what's good in every situation and sometimes doing the right thing turns out to be the wrong thing with some people and situations. We can either do the best we can to be good, or we decide to worry more about our own needs and not care about others.
 

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I believe we should strive to be good knowing that we may fall short at times
Indeed, because we are not perfect, we will always fall short. But the thing that saves us IS NOT that we just try again. Its that we try BETTER the next time. That is critical.

The ultimate expresion of trying better is thus always the BEST goal to keep in mind, to aim at, and that is perfection.

It does not matter how hard it is to get to perfection, at the minimum aiming at it is required or we are 'intending to fail'. That is the over expression of pragmatism.

and have to make amends.
No, we do not. This is a typical error in thinking and feeling.

Amends are effectively punishments. Both rewards and punishments by moral agents are immoral. That is because love itself, the system automatically rewards and punishes every act/choice at the exact time of its doing. This is super tricky to understand. But it remains a part of truth and a reason why we are all still painfully immoral in most ways. We have a lot of wisdom to earn.

If you mean by 'have to make amends', that we should allow all past patterns to inform future choices and make them BETTER, then that is correct. But I would not call that amends.

Further, the concept of amends is a partial denial of the truth of moral forgiveness. If we are genuinely forgiven our errors, and in any moment we can choose to do GOOD and be GOOD, then there is NEVER any actual stigma for past wrongs. This is correct. Genuine GOOD intent is all that is required. It is immoral image posturing to others that often prefers these acts of contrition, these immoral punishments known as 'amends'.

We don't always know what's good in every situation and sometimes doing the right thing turns out to be the wrong thing with some people and situations.
So you have to qualify right and wrong here.

It is impossible to do objective GOOD. So, in our subjective experience and always partially in error choices, it is NO SURPRISE AT ALL that perfect GOOD does not happen.

This is why INTENT is what really matters, never consequences as a first order moral issue. Consequences are only useful in informing new intents.

We can either do the best we can to be good, or we decide to worry more about our own needs and not care about others.
I am not sure why you say this here. The choice the way you put it is between intentional GOOD aiming and intentional evil aiming. Those are NOT the only choices. Accidental good aiming is another and accidental evil aiming yet a fourth.
 
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Indeed, because we are not perfect, we will always fall short. But the thing that saves us IS NOT that we just try again. Its that we try BETTER the next time. That is critical.

The ultimate expresion of trying better is thus always the BEST goal to keep in mind, to aim at, and that is perfection.

It does not matter how hard it is to get to perfection, at the minimum aiming at it is required or we are 'intending to fail'. That is the over expression of pragmatism.


No, we do not. This is a typical error in thinking and feeling.

Amends are effectively punishments. Both rewards and punishments by moral agents are immoral. That is because love itself, the system automatically rewards and punishes every act/choice at the exact time of its doing. This is super tricky to understand. But it remains a part of truth and a reason why we are all still painfully immoral in most ways. We have a lot of wisdom to earn.

If you mean by 'have to make amends', that we should allow all past patterns to inform future choices and make them BETTER, then that is correct. But I would not call that amends.

Further, the concept of amends is a partial denial of the truth of moral forgiveness. If we are genuinely forgiven our errors, and in any moment we can choose to do GOOD and be GOOD, then there is NEVER any actual stigma for past wrongs. This is correct. Genuine GOOD intent is all that is required. It is immoral image posturing to others that often prefers these acts of contrition, these immoral punishments known as 'amends'.


So you have to qualify right and wrong here.

It is impossible to do objective GOOD. So, in our subjective experience and always partially in error choices, it is NO SURPRISE AT ALL that perfect GOOD does not happen.

This is why INTENT is what really matters, never consequences as a first order moral issue. Consequences are only useful in informing new intents.


I am not sure why you say this here. The choice the way you put it is between intentional GOOD aiming and intentional evil aiming. Those are NOT the only choices. Accidental good aiming is another and accidental evil aiming yet a fourth.
I suppose I was writing in very general terms. I cannot say I object to your more specific ones, in principle, if not completely. I'm going to give your words time to percolate for a while. ;)
 
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I really think that at the heart of being a good person is simply creating the optimum and most enduring balance of interpersonal and intrapersonal stability.
 

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I really think that at the heart of being a good person is simply creating the optimum and most enduring balance of interpersonal and intrapersonal stability.
This would just be order and reasoning, Pragmatism. It leaves out the completely equal moral value of idealism.

Change, instability, IS NOT immoral.
 
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