But perhaps it is desirable that we should examine the notion of a Universal Good, and
review the difficulties that it involves, although such an inquiry goes against the grain
because of our friendship for the authors of the Theory of Ideas.1
perhaps it would appear desirable, and indeed it would seem to be obligatory, especially
for a philosopher, to sacrifice even one's closest personal ties in defense of the truth.
Both are dear to us, yet 'tis our duty to prefer the truth.2
theory, then, used not to postulate Ideas of groups of things in which they posited4
an order of
priority and posteriority5
（for which reason they did not construct an Idea of numbers in
general）. But Good is predicated alike in
the Categories of Substance, of Quality, and Relation; yet the Absolute,6
or Substance, is prior in nature to the Relative, which seems to be a sort of offshoot or
‘accident’ of Substance; so that there cannot be a common Idea
corresponding to the absolutely good and the relatively good.
Again, the word ‘good’ is used in as many senses as the word
‘is’; for we may predicate good in the Category of Substance, for
instance of God, or intelligence; in that of Quality—the excellences; in that of
Quantity—moderate in amount; in that of Relation—useful; in that of
Time—a favorable opportunity; in that of Place—a suitable
; and so on. So clearly good cannot be a single and universal general
notion; if it were, it would not be predicable in all the Categories, but only in
Again, things that come under a single Idea must be objects of a single science; hence
there ought to be a single science dealing with all good things. But as a matter of fact
there are a number of sciences even for the goods in one Category: for example,
opportunity, for opportunity in war comes under the science of strategy, in disease under
that of medicine; and the due amount in diet comes under medicine, in bodily exercise
One might also raise the question what precisely they mean by their expression the
‘Ideal so and-so,’8
seeing that one and the same definition
of man applies both to ‘the Ideal man’ and to
for in so far as both are man, there will be no
difference between them; and if so, no more will there be any difference between
‘the Ideal Good’ and ‘Good’ in so far as both are
Nor yet will the Ideal Good be any more good
because it is eternal, seeing that a white thing that lasts a long time is no whiter than
one that lasts only a day.
seem to give a more probable doctrine on the
subject of the Good when they place Unity in their column of goods; and indeed
appears to have followed them. But this
subject must be left for another discussion.
We can descry an objection that may be raised against our arguments on the ground that
the theory in question was not intended to apply to every sort of good, and that only
things pursued and accepted for their own sake are pronounced good as belonging to a
single species, while things productive or preservative of these in any way, or preventive
of their opposites, are said to be good as a means to these, and in a different sense.
Clearly then the term ‘goods’ would
have two meanings, （1） things good in themselves and
（2） things good as a means to these; let us then separate things good in
themselves from things useful as means, and consider whether the former are called good
because they fall under a single Idea.
But what sort of
things is one to class as good in themselves? Are they not those things which are sought
after even without any accessory advantage, such as wisdom, sight, and certain pleasures
and honors? for even if we also pursue these things as means to something else, still one
would class them among things good in themselves. Or is there nothing else good in itself except the Idea? If so, the species will be of
If on the contrary the class of things good in
themselves includes these objects, the same notion of good ought to be manifested in all
of them, just as the same notion of white is manifested in snow and in white paint. But as
a matter of fact the notions of honor and wisdom and pleasure, as being good, are
different and distinct. Therefore, good is not a general term corresponding to a single
But in what sense then are different things called good? For they do not seem to be a
case of things that bear the same name merely by chance. Possibly things are called good
in virtue of being derived from one good; or because they all contribute to one good. Or
perhaps it is rather by way of a proportion13
: that is, as sight is good in the body, so
intelligence is good in the soul, and similarly another thing in something else.
Perhaps however this question must be dismissed for the present, since a detailed
investigation of it belongs more properly to another branch of philosophy14
likewise with the Idea of the Good; for even if the goodness predicated of various in
common really is a unity or something existing separately and absolute, it clearly will
not be practicable or attainable by man; but the Good which we are now seeking is a good
within human reach.
But possibly someone may think that to know the Ideal Good may be desirable as an aid to
achieving those goods which are practicable and attainable: having the Ideal Good as a
pattern we shall more easily know what things are good for us, and knowing them, obtain
Now it is true that this argument has a certain
plausibility; but it does not seem to square with the actual procedure of the sciences.
For these all aim at some good, and seek to make up their deficiencies,15
do not trouble about a knowledge of the Ideal Good. Yet if it were so potent an aid, it is
improbable that all the professors of the arts and sciences should not know it, nor even
seek to discover it.
Moreover, it is not easy to see how
knowing that same Ideal Good will help a weaver or carpenter in the practice of his own
craft, or how anybody will be a better physician or general for having contemplated the
absolute Idea. In fact it does not appear that the physician studies even health16
in the abstract; he studies the health of the human being—or
rather of some particular human being, for it is individuals that he has to cure.
Let us here conclude our discussion of this subject.