Leon Pomeroy Ph.D.

Beyond Good and Evil

Defining Good to Kill Evil

Can We Kill Evil?

Posted Feb 22, 2012

Defining Good: We previously considered killing ego to kill evil. Defining good is another way to kill evil. With poetry and stories the world's religions have spoken to good and evil, but without defining good. Philosopher Nietzsche came up with a new morality beyond good and evil. It was based on survival of the fittest. These approaches don't give us much to work with. We need a definition of good without using examples of good. Can you define good without using an example of good? It isn't easy! The best minds of history failed. This began to change in the 20th century when English philosopher G.E. Moore concluded it could be done. He died in 1958 without succeeding. His effort inspired an American philosopher looking for ways to organize good with the same efficiency Adolf Hitler organized evil. His name is Robert S. Hartman. He succeeded in defining good before he died in 1973. He defined good as concept fulfillment. I'll explain! It's an operational definition scientist can work with. It has powerful consequences. It generated a theory of value. It revealed three ways of seeing with values. It produced a test of values. Knowing something about it can help you spot evil and more quickly see differences between nice and nasty, right and wrong, good and bad. I'll give you some examples to help you understand Hartman's definition of good which remains one of the world's best kept secrets.

Example: Consider a chair, any chair. A good chair is one that fulfills the definition of a chair; meaning it will have four legs, a seat and back. The meaning of good lies in the agreement between an idea and the object of the idea. If the idea of a chair is rich in properties the meaning of good becomes more demanding and only a physical object matching those properties is considered good. If idea and object match-up without a mix-up, we think we have something good. The good exists in the correspondence of properties between thought and object. How can this deceptively simply definition of good kill evil? Its lethality lies in the "magic of amplification;" the amplification that comes from giving birth to a science of values, a test of values, and the discovery of how we see with values, all of which is supported by published research.  

Example: Consider how maps relate to territories. They can help us find our way along highways and hiking trails. Our mental-maps build the only reality we'll ever know, the subjective reality inside our skins that represents objective reality outside our skins. If the subjective and objective realities match we survive and flourish. If not, objective territories come up and slap us in the face. Hartman's definition of good asks: "...does the territory fit the map." Traditional science asks a different question: "...does the map fit the territory?" Hartman is in search of the good and the power of organized good. Science is in search of truth. The search for goodness is different from the search for truth. Truth is not goodness and goodness is not truth. Do not despair! Let's pause a moment and consider a poem by John Keats..."Ode on a Grecian Urn" explores the relation between soul-maps and artistic-territories. The Ode includes the now famous line "Beauty is truth, truth beauty," - that is all Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know." Sadly, definition of good breaks the poetic spell cast by Keats. Good turns out to be neither truth nor beauty, but something all its own which demands a science all its own...in full recognition of values in a world of facts. It turns out  "beauty is truth, truth beauty" doesn't define good in ways scientists can work with. Hartman's concept fulfillment definition of good results in a new morality that allows us to think in terms of good and bad evil, good and bad serial killers, good and bad ideas, and so forth. This new approach gives us a better understanding of feeler, doer and thinker ways of seeing with values. Let's pause again with another poem and graphics prepared for me by Linda Niewiadomski:

FEELER, Freddy is a feeler/ Wears his heart upon his sleeve / Empathy is his middle name / By your side, he'll never leave. DOER, Danny is a doer/ He's always busy as a bee / Takes no time to feel or think /His goals won't set him free. THINKER, Tommy is a thinker / Analytical to the bone / Lost in thought and questioning / He spends his time alone.

I hope the poetry helps us grasp the definition of good and its consequence, including the identification of Feeler, Doer and Thinker ways of seeing with values.  As to seeing with values, I'm in good company. This optical metaphor was a favorite with ancient Greeks who equated values with seeing even though they never succeeded in defining good...which is basic to any discussion of killing evil. Our definition of good also produced a quick test of the sensitivity, balance and order of importance of these three dimensions of seeing with values or value-vision, which varies from value-blindness, to value-astigmatism, to value-acuity.  

Dr. Leon Pomeroy 

About the Author

Leon Pomeroy, Ph.D., taught at George Mason University and authored The New Science of Axiological Psychology.

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